These three brands of delicious fishes are a world away from the sharp little hairy strips found on top of suburban pizzas. These are packaged umami, meaty and sweet fish that are so carefully cured and prepared that they could be eaten straight from the can as a snack with drinks.
What sets these brands apart is that they are packed in olive oil and are shipped to Australia in refrigerated containers. Cheaper brands are not refrigerated so the oil in which they are packed can become rancid and the fats in the fish degrade. That gives a disagreeable flavour to cheap anchovies and saddles the whole category with a bad reputation.
The other notable thing about these anchovies is that they are filleted by hand, so they aren’t full of bones like many cheapies, and hand-packed into the tins in which they are sold. Try these anchovies on bread with a glass of wine or use them in the kitchen to make classic dishes such as Caesar salad and bagna cauda or add them when you roast lamb to develop an extra layer of flavour. And remember – always store your good anchovies in the fridge.
1. Don Bocarte
Harvested in the spring in the Bay of Biscay off Spain’s northern green coast, the best anchovies are selected, cleaned, then laid out in barrels and covered in salt. They mature over eight months, developing a deep, delicious flavour. They are then filleted, trimmed, packed into cans, covered in extra virgin olive oil and sealed. They cost $14 for 48g but for that you get beautiful rosy pink anchovies, densely textured with a delicate meaty flavour. The quality is superb.
2. Anxoves de L’Escala
Look for the bright yellow tin with the red trim for these excellent pale pink and meaty, sweetly delectable anchovies from the Catalan town of Escala and wild caught in the Mediterranean and Black seas. What sets these quality anchovies apart is a strip of silver, the result of an intricate trimming process that leaves just a flash of skin on the exterior. At about $9 for 50g these are a real treat.
Wild caught in the Cantabrian sea off the north coast of Spain these anchovies differ from others in that the curing period is shorter than the usual eight to 12 months. This leads to a sweet, meatier anchovy fillet that is deep pink in colour. At about $6 for a 90g tin it is head and shoulders above entry level products but still affordable as a delicious treat.