The global spread of the coronavirus is disrupting travel. Stay up to date on the science behind the outbreak>>

Five ways to use anchovies, according to chef Jacob Kenedy

Divisive little fish, anchovies add a dose of umami to any dish. Here are five ways to get the most out of these salty suspects.

Published 26 Jul 2021, 11:50 BST, Updated 29 Jul 2021, 16:25 BST
Anchovies are surprisingly diverse, and can add a burst of saltiness to everything from salads to ...

Anchovies are surprisingly diverse, and can add a burst of saltiness to everything from salads to spaghetti. 

Photograph by Getty Images

Anchovies aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I’ve always been smitten by these delicious, silvery slivers of fish. Like artichokes, lemons, good oil and quality chocolate, they’re a humble ingredient that steal the limelight when allowed to shine.

Whether it’s for biological or social reasons, many of us develop likes and dislikes of certain foods as children, and these can continue into adulthood. Salted anchovies, with their abundance of umami, are challenging for young palates, and can be divisive among grown-ups too. Personally, however, I find anchovies delicious in all their guises, from sea-fresh to tinned and salty.

I remember the sense of incredulity I felt at school on learning that garum, a fermented fish sauce, was a cornerstone of the ancient Roman kitchen. What I didn’t realise was that garum lives on — in fish sauce, shrimp paste, Worcestershire sauce and salted anchovies themselves. 

Anchovies are so delicate that if they’re to be eaten fresh they must be consumed soon after they’ve been landed — so fried, grilled or freshly pickled anchovies are a hallmark of coastal life and holidays. Inland, preserved varieties offer a culinary connection to the sea. As a child, guzzling anchovies in fritto misto or on pizza, I didn’t consider any of this. I just ate them because they were delicious, which is the only reason to eat anything. 

1. Fried

Using your fingertips, remove the heads and intestines from fresh anchovies. Season the fish with salt, dust in a mixture of flour and semolina, then deep fry in clean, hot (180C) oil for one minute, until just golden.

2. Pickled

Fillet fresh anchovies with your fingers. Salt for 15 mins, then marinate with red onion, parsley, chilli, red wine vinegar, a dash of water and a touch more salt until they’re semi-opaque. Drain and dress with extra virgin olive oil.

3. Salted

Soak really good-quality anchovy fillets (Cantabrian are best) in water for 10 mins to plump them up before serving with buttered bread, on pan con tomate, or with finely chopped parsley, garlic and olive oil. 

4. Bagna càuda

Mix equal quantities of butter, cream, olive oil and garlic with a double quantity of anchovy fillets and a little lemon zest. Cook, covered, in a bain-marie for an hour or two until tender, then blend. Dip anything in the sauce.

5. ‘Lost’

The simplest way to ‘lose’ anchovies is in pasta aglio e olio. Fry garlic gently in oil, add a little chilli, then some chopped anchovy fillets. Stir off the heat until the fillets melt, then toss in the pasta, some parsley and a little cooking water.

Jacob Kenedy is chef/patron at London-based Bocca di Lupo, Gelupo and Plaquemine Lock.

Published in the summer 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller Food

Love food and travel? Taste the world at the National Geographic Traveller Food Festival, our immersive culinary event taking place on 16-17 July 2022 at London’s Business Design Centre. Find out more and book your tickets

Follow us on social media

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram 

Read More

You might also like

Notes from an author: Craig Taylor on New York
Five cycling experts share their favourite routes in the UK
Four of the best boutique hotels in Girona
The secret life of sake, Japan's national obsession
Win a five-night luxury stay for two in Rhodes

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved