Foodstuff: Anchovy Paste in a Tube

Anchovy Paste 1

My cupboard almost always has a can or two of anchovy fillets secreted away. Unfortunately, most of the recipes I use them in generally only use a portion of the can and, since the fillets really don’t keep well once the can is opened, I usually end up tossing what I don’t use right away. Anchovy paste in a tube, however, while not quite as good as the whole fillets, has the advantage of allowing you to use just a little while keeping the rest for extended periods and is thus extremely useful to have on hand…

Anchovy Paste 2

The paste is not especially remarkable in appearance. This particular brand has a decided purple tint like some varieties of shrimp paste, while others are a deeper brown in color. The flavor is a bit flatter than whole fillets, without the brighter highlights, and it is every bit as salty. It can also have a slight bitterness in the aftertaste but this is not generally apparent unless you are tasting it directly from the tube.

You can use the paste as you would mashed fillets, such as in a traditional Caesar salad dressing, for example, but the product is most useful as an addition to sauces (especially tomato based ones) and in herb-based pestos as well. In these preparations, just a little is used with the result that there is no fishy taste at all, but just a rich umami depth that gives no hint of its origin. To try this, the next time you make a pizza, stir a half or whole teaspoon or so into the sauce before you spread it on the dough. You won’t know it is there, but it will improve the taste no end.

Anchovy Paste 3

This little appetizer is known as ‘Scotch Woodcock’ and is simply buttered toast spread with a thin layer of anchovy paste and topped with lightly scrambled egg. It is a little snack that my father used to make and which I haven’t had in years. I remembered it when I was beginning this post and I whipped up a couple of slices for my wife who was very suspicious when I told her what it was. She ended up liking it very much, however and even if you have never really enjoyed anchovies before, you might want to give this a try.

By the way, I have no idea how the name came about but it has been suggested that it is a gibe at the supposed poor hunting skills of Scotsmen. Some versions also include whole anchovy fillets on top of the eggs and things like capers and olives are sometimes added as well. There is also a type made with another anchovy based paste called Gentleman’s Relish. I will be taking a look at this sometime soon, so stay tuned…

 

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