If you are thinking that this is not your everyday recipe, you are right. However, marinated anchovies are one of the most loved appetizers or meze here in Greece, especially when consumed with ouzo. And the boys gobble these up too, the minute they are served at the table.
Most people are only familiar with canned anchovies or sardines, but the fresh versions of these fish actually are the main source of fish in the Mediterranean diet. I’m afraid to say that salmon (even though everyone seems to think it is “Mediterranean”) is not part of the traditional Mediterranean diet, but the small fatty fish, mainly anchovies and sardines are.
Nowadays these fish are always available here in Greece and they are pretty cheap. Usually they are consumed fried, sometimes roasted and very often cured or marinated. The reason for that is, that fresh fish was not available to most Greek people all year. Yes, my friends, another Mediterranean Diet misconception debunked- the traditional Greek diet did not include fresh fish all year round. Greeks that lived in mountainous areas (that makes up 80% of the land in Greece) did not have access all year to fresh fish, so they found ways to preserve it. Sardines and anchovies were the main type of fish preserved, and they were either consumed as accompaniment to beans or vegetables, or as a meze.
This delectable meze is absolutely delicious and addictive. If you have been to Greece and have tasted this with a cold glass of ouzo, you know exactly what I am talking about, but if you haven’t , I invite to make this simple recipe if you get your hands on fresh anchovies. The recipe is very simple and straightforward.
Nutritionally anchovies are small fish, low on the food chain and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. This particular recipe is salty, so it’s good to have a few at a time and accompany them with fresh vegetables and plenty of water.
When preparing anchovies in this way, you have to remove the head and spine and gut the fish. It is fairly easy, you pull off the head and usually the guts come off as well, you can pass your finger through to make sure the fish is clean. Then you open the fish completely (like a butterfly) and remove the spine (when the spine is pulled off, often the tail comes off too-otherwise you can cut the tail with scissors). Here is a quick video that shows you how to do it. After that you may rinse the fish (if it is very messy) although they say that the blood imparts flavor to the final product, so it is better not to rinse too much.
Curing and Marinating Anchovies
Once the anchovies are cleaned you place them in a casserole dish, layering them and sprinkling them with salt between layers. You cover with plastic wrap and place the dish in the refrigerator for about 12 hours.
Then you rinse very well, place the fish in the same way in the same dish (wash it first) and cover with red wine vinegar. You let it sit in the refrigerator again for 5-6 hours.
Now the anchovies will have turned white. Remove from vinegar and rinse again very well.
Place the anchovies in an airproof container, and pour over olive oil (make sure it covers all the fish) with a few slices of garlic and some peppercorns or any other herbs you like. It will last about 2 weeks (or more) in the olive oil.
How to Serve Marinated Anchovies
Typically when they are served as a meze they are placed on a plate (like I have in the photo)- I added a few red peppercorns. You can also add parsley or other herbs.
When served as part of a meal, they are usually served with beans such as lentils. You can also place on some slices of bread like a bruschetta or in a salad or in pasta like in the pasta putanesca
Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved