I am obsessed with anchovies. I know that some people can’t stand the intense salty, fishy flavour but that it precisely the reason I love them so. I can do a whole tin in one sitting spread onto hot buttered toast – often I’ll do a soft boiled egg to dip the salty soldiers into. This is possibly my favourite snack and one which I’m very tempted to bust out at our next Guilty Pleasures Dinner Party.
The dinner is supposed to be a place to share culinary creations you shouldn’t really enjoy but you do and I pondered the eligibility of my egg and soldier offering. I mean, many people already love anchovies, right? Think Rowley Leigh’s parmesan custard with anchovy toasts, think lamb studded with rosemary and anchovies, think Worcestershire Sauce, Gentleman’s Relish, Caesar salad, fish sauce, bagna cauda…I could go on.
And then I realised, anchovies are a very guilty pleasure indeed, because we shouldn’t really be eating them at all. Stocks of the salty suckers are dwindling and I for one am gutted. I’m probably single handedly responsible for tipping the balance into the red. Well, me and Rowley Leigh who quite rightly laments that there is no substitute.
So, I’m trying to cut down (a little bit) – I’m taking things one week at a time. Can’t people just start breeding them or something? Crikey, I’m tempted to set up some sort of operation on my balcony just to keep a personal supply going. I thought I might have made the whole thing worse by using tuna in this dish too but that’s OK as long as it’s not Bigeye, Northern Bluefin, Pacific Bluefin or Southern Bluefin, apparently. Phew.
I’d like to say I’ll be able to stop eating anchovies but I’m not quite sure I can make that promise. I mean, I have an addiction, I can’t just go cold turkey – I’ll need professional help.
Grilled Radicchio, Fennel and Tuna with Spicy Anchovy Dressing (serves 2, generously)
1/2 head radicchio
1 bulb fennel
1 tuna steak
1 tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or soak your own)
For the dressing
1 large red chilli, de-seeded or not (up to you) and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 handful mint leaves, chopped
Juice of 1/2 large lemon plus an extra squeeze to finish
6 anchovy fillets (more or less depending on taste)
Pinch of sugar
Oil (I used rapeseed)
– To make the dressing either whack the garlic, chilli, mint, anchovies, sugar and black pepper in a blender or pound in a pestle and mortar (my preference) until you have a mushy paste. Add the lemon juice and about 4 tablespoons of oil and mix thoroughly to emulsify. Adjust the quantities as necessary. If your dressing is too tart or you feel like it is punching you in the mouth, add another pinch of sugar.
– Remove any tired outer leaves from the radicchio then cut lengthways through the core and then do the same again so that you have four wedges. Cut the fennel lengthways through the core into slices, taking care to remove any tough bits of core but leaving enough so that it stays together in slices.
– Brush the wedges of radicchio and fennel with some of the dressing, reserving a teaspoon for the beans and some for drizzling at the end. Then grill them either on a hot griddle or the BBQ.
– Rub the tuna steak with oil and season. Grill for 1 minute each side then set aside on a warm plate while you assemble the salad.
– Arrange the fennel and radicchio slices on plates. Mix 1 teaspoon of the dressing with the beans and scatter over. Slice the tuna across the grain and arrange on the plate before drizzling over some of the remaining dressing and adding a final squeeze of lemon juice.