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Posts Tagged ‘anchovies’

My first husband’s idea of wit was to exclaim, whenever the opportunity presented itself (surprisingly, gratingly, often);  “Anchovies? Smelly little fish!”   The marriage didn’t last long, but if by some warped circumstance we had found ourselves strolling the markets of Vieux Nice last week, I should have been delighted to waterboard him with a vat of poutine in response.

baby anchovies for sale in Vieux Nice

Now, fresh poutine is not smelly but it is most certainly a preponderance of tiny little baby fish: the fry of sardines and, yes-you-guessed-it, anchovies; rather rare, rather restricted and rather delicious, netted strictly by licence, only along the Côte d’Azur between Antibes and Menton, and only for a month at the end of winter (February/March): very local, very special and altogether too good for no-good husbands.  Happily for the peace of the Vieille Ville, I was accompanied by the darling Mr T, whose adult approach to things piscine is a joy, an ichthyic ideal.

Jacques Médecin, controversial erstwhile mayor of Nice, was a passionate advocate of Niçoise cuisine and I quote here from his well-regarded cookbook, La bonne cuisine du Comté de Nice:

A la saison de février, lorsque brille, sur les étals, la nacre de poutine, les rues des villes – vieilles ou nouvelles – retentissent de l’appel des marchandes: “A la bella poutina!  A la bella poutina!”  qui inspira mon vieux camarade de classe Gilbert Becaud dans sa chanson sur les marchés de Provence.

Around February, as the pearly sheen of poutine gleams on the market stalls, town streets – old and new – ring with the call of the vendors: “A la bella poutina!  A la bella poutina!”, the inspiration for my former classmate Gilbert Becaud’s song,  The Markets of Provence [Gastroplod’s rough & ready translation]

and for your extreme pleasure, here’s Gilbert Becaud himself – listen out for him calling “A la bella poutina” at the very end and you will have a charming early-spring echo of  Place St-François in Vieux Nice.


click here for the lyrics (in French)

I took my first and as-yet-only taste of poutine at the Café des Fleurs on the Cours Saleya, in one of its traditional preparations in the form of an omelette.  No surprises here, it tasted just like an omelette with all the briny flavour and savour of very fresh anchovies and sardines, and I did enjoy the sparkle of their teeny-weeny little eyes glinting in the sunlight.
omelette made with seasonal baby fish; sardines, anchovies, in Vieux Nice

French Wiki reference: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poutine_(Nice)

* this poutine has nothing to do with that somewhat-stodgier Québecois fries-gravy-curds speciality also called poutine: although I used to enjoy that version now & then in Vancouver, I know which I’d prefer now…

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Do you ever buy delicious edibles in jars or tubs?  If so, you’ve no doubt acquired more than a few items preserved in olive oil.  Now this idea is so obvious perhaps I’m just a slow learner, but until recently, once the olives, or sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes or anchovies were gone I used to throw away the oil left behind.

And then it dawned on me: that way flies food waste and for a frugal hedonist that way lies madness too.

Food manufacturers go to some lengths to keep us buying the fancy “deli” stuff aimed at our sophisticated palates.  This usually means adding herbs and/or garlic to enhance the flavour of the main attraction, so while blithely using the contents of the jar, might it not be a really good idea to also make use of the olive oil it’s been swimming in to augment and deepen the flavours of your dish – or even the whole meal?
sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil

So if you’re cooking up beef daube with olives, brown the beef in oil from the olive jar (try anchovy for an authentic southern Rhône flavour) – or start your sofrito sizzling with sun-dried tomato oil for an Italian ragù.  Try frying the aubergines in artichoke oil next time you make caponata.  Kick off a pilaf with the same; add a few drops to plain couscous, a tablespoon or two to pizza dough…

rosemary branch in olive oilI have even been known to strain the oil into a decanter and poke in a couple of rosemary sprigs – hey presto, rosemary oil for focaccia!

Use in almost any recipe instead of your usual olive oil.  If you devote half a shelf in the fridge door to these almost empty jars and use them up quickly, not only is the extra depth of flavour well worth it, you’ll be able to save up your pennies for some really special olive oil.

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Yet another riff on my olive oil dough theme: I call it inside-out pissaladière as this one contains home-made onion confit, flaked tuna and a sprinkle of capers.  I ate it – just catching a last morsel for this snap – for lunch then made another variation for Mr T’s tomorrow but this time added a few anchovies and a scatter of Waitrose’s frozen Grilled Peppers for an antioxidant+fibre hit & run.  Made in a toaster oven it’s convenient and economical; two of my favourite things.  Oh, and very very tasty.
Brush with olive oil halfway through (200C for 30 mins) for a deliciously friable crust .
inside-out pissaladiere

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