Monday, 5 July 2010

Anchovy straws

I like to think I have an complicated relationship with anchovies but I think that it's probably the same relationship that most other people have with them, i.e. they are disgusting, but at times you crave them nonetheless.

I found myself in Chichester on Friday. There was a spooky moment where I wondered why I recognised it, just this particular stretch of street here, with that shop on the corner and the cathedral just there. Then my husband reminded me that this was where, two years ago, he broke the land speed record and collected 3 points for his licence while driving me to a GP, because I was struck down en route to our weekend away, with an acutely painful and unpleasant ladies' problem, which requires antibiotics.

But I try not to let the trauma of pissing blood colour my judgment of a provincial town and I can say with confidence that Chichester is really quite lovely in the sunshine. We went to Field and Fork, which is a restaurant within an art gallery to have dinner, just before we missed the last train back to London and had to get a cab all the way home. It was £120 and as nice as Chichester is, it was worth every penny.

Anyway at Field and Fork we were brought some anchovy straws as a sort of amuse bouche. And it was one of those days when I thought "Yes. I really, really, really want some anchovy."

So here we go. This is a mash-up of a cheese biscuit recipe I found on a Hugh FW cutting out of the Guardian and a recipe from The New Penguin Cookery Book. If you are doing these for a party rather than tout seul or a deux scoffing, you would, of course, make some plain cheese straws, or some other kind of canape, too, because not everyone wants salty mushy fish specks just before dinner.

Me? I want the same as any woman; I want to be Shakira.

Anchovy straws
makes about 20

125g butter, diced
150g plain flour
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
black pepper
125g grated cheddar
approx 3 tablespoons grated pecorino or parmesan, or any other hard cheese you want
1 tin anchovy fillets

1 Pulverise everything except the anchovies in a blender until it forms a rough dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and bash it around for a bit, then bring it together into a ball and put in the fridge for half an hour.

2 Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 0.5cm and cut into shapes. I've done these as straws but you could do them as little biscuits, or squares or stars or anything you like really. Chop or snip up the anchovy fillets into little scrapings and then press them with the point of a knife into the pastry in a gracious or amusing pattern. For anchovy-phobes, leave the cheesy pastry plain, or you could substitute the anchovy for rosemary, mint or anything else that takes your fancy.

3 Lay out your straws or biscuits onto a baking tray either greased or lined with baking parchement and cook at 190 for 10 minutes, or in a fan oven, 180 for 9 minutes. If you have gone for a straw-shape, be extra careful when moving these about when cooked as they snap pretty easily. If in doubt, wait for them to cool completely and pick them up by their middles.

Like anything made out of mostly cheese and butter, these will freeze well.


  1. Ouch. Your "ladies' problem" para gave me that pain down my inner thighs which I always get when hearing of such hideousness. Do all blokes get that? No? Just me then. Chichester holds some traumatic memories for me too, but I shan't garnish. The straws sound delicious. The thing about anchovies is that they're disgusting unless used in tiny quantities as a relish, when they're delicious: on pizza, in Salade Niçoise and so on. I'm afraid I gave Shakira a miss at Glastonbury. Will you ever forgive me?

  2. Yeah I'd like to be Shakira too...anchovies and cheese on a stick. Got to be good.

  3. These look like the kind of things that are totally impressive when you bring them out at a dinner party and tell people you've made them yourself... personally I LOVE anchovies but never eat them... what's that all about?

    Oh... and i'd also like to be Shakira... he's that bloke from Doctor Shivago right?

  4. Those straws look delicious. I'll be trying this recipe, for once I happen to have all the ingredients without having to go to Waitrose.

    That particular *lady problem* is excrutiating, I've been floored by it a few times and had to restrain myself from flooring everyone who said "cranberry juice" to me. Under those conditions I'd trade 3 penalty points for 3 days worth of antibiotics any day.

  5. The BSG and I are eating a whole lot of anchovies at the moment, with unsalted butter and thinly sliced shallots on toasted sourdough. We nicked it from Terroirs and its marvellous - as long as you're not going to breathe on anyone afterwards. The hips don't lie.

  6. Dammit. Started stupid diet this week....oh stuff it anchovy straws for tea it is....

  7. These look great.

    Do you need a pastry hook for this recipe? I have a kitchen Aid blender and a Bamix hand held (which I hate as it cost a fortune and won't do egg whites without knowing the 'knack' the lady on the helpline told me about which takes years to acquire and not what you expect when you've just bought a piece of kit to replace a £9.99 hand blender that did the job beautifully)

    ...sorry digressive rant over. Back to original question - will the normal blade do the job?

    Thank you.

  8. Hi Esther, I thought I'd let you know that I've just made a batch of these straws and they're delicious! The recipe works very well. I didn't use anchovies as my husband hates them and I want him to have something he likes when he gets home later (if I haven't eaten them all by then.) Instead of the fish, I grated a little more parmesan over the top just before baking. I am very well pleased. Thank you for the recipe. x

  9. No, you don't need a pastry hook for this. Just hammer it up in any old food processor, using any old fitting. That's what makes these especially great: hassle-free.

    I am very upset by your Bamix story. No labour-saving device ought to require a "knack".

  10. Thank you for your Bamix sympathy!

    I will definitely have a go making a batch of the straws at the weekend.

    If you have anchovies to use up - another great recipe is Gordon Ramsay's spaghetti with shallots and anchovy.

    The anchovies melt away but leave a fabulous tasting and very easy supper. I was dubious about the egg but it works really well....

  11. At the risk of being struck off as not a proper foodie, you can also buy a packet of puff pastry from Baker + Spice (or, er, Sainsburys), roll it out a bit, strew with anchovies, roll up, slice, bake + hey nonny presto, palmiers.

  12. Needs more ancho! :D I cant understand why some people wouldnt eat it! I simply LOVE anchovies. Especially on pizza.