Small fish have a sassy whimsicality, which is almost provocative, as if their insignificant size gives them a clear class consciousness that results on focusing on the same point: what they are and what they appear to be. They do not have the familiar inhibitions of humans. Small fish have no smugness, no unwanted image-making, nor megalomania. “This is who I am, neither more nor less, and I don’t care if you like it. Take it or leave it,” they state boldly, lying on the fish-monger’s stand in front of the morning crowd. The smaller they are, the greater their arrogance. Once your gaze rests on them —even for a short time— it will be hard to leave without being escorted by them.
Rather in this fashion, a few weeks ago, fresh, firm anchovies were transported with enthusiasm to my kitchen for the purpose of making my beloved classic recipe of simple spicy marinated anchovies. While cleaning the anchovies, my inspiration was disturbed by the lack of lemons – end-summer misfortunes of the refrigerator! With just two basic ingredients, the limes stocked in the fridge for margaritas (my fav cocktail), and fresh ginger, the appetizing little fish started one way and finished in another, as it took a new, fusion road, more than tasty, and from the aromatic aspect, absolutely fascinating.
Meet the tasteful Greek anchovy
The fresh Greek anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) is considered (and actually is) absolutely tasty. It does not exceed at best 18-20 cm, but you will rarely find such a very long anchovy. During the warm months it lives on the surface of the sea, while in winter it vanishes into deep waters, from which, when reproducing, it travels towards the coast to lay its many eggs. For this reason, in summertime the fishing of anchovies is prohibited, curtailing the trawlers that systematically empty the seas by over-fishing, and the seiners which consider fresh anchovies a key proportion of their catch in summer, when demand for fresh fish of any kind is at its maximum due to tourism.
Don’t kill the messenger
All are part of the chain of life, anchovy no exception; on the contrary, the increased stock is considered to have an exceptional biological importance, “because it supports the series of local predator populations such as tuna (tuna-like species, bonito, etc.) and other medium-sized pelagic species such as mackerel and partly benthic predators, such as cod, especially in the first two years of its life. (Dr. Argyris Kallianotis, The anchovy stock in the north Aegean, File/fishing-aquaculture, Fisheries Research Institute).
Thus, activists and law enter the summer chain of action in favor of small and scorned fish (mainly the anchovy and sardine) and at the same time enter the cycle of summer news, as it seems that the survival of our fishing fleet (how grand it sounds!) follows a practice of significant decimation of fish populations, which is the very object of its work. Is that an oxymoron? No. Just a simple exaggeration. Call it simply …Greek; although perfectly integrated into the insane status quo of world fisheries, which often manage marine life by exterminating it. And that is a huge issue, though not the subject of this article.
So I’ll stick to the super-tastiness of the recipe of (regular size) fresh anchovy marinated with ginger and lime, and convey to you the recipe that had great success during an afternoon gathering along with aperitifs. I suggest you try it at the earliest opportunity with fresh anchovies, caught, if possible, according to the mildest methods.
Marinated fresh anchovy with ginger and lime
Preparation: about 20-30 minutes, depending on your disposition in deboning anchovies, plus another 3 hours at least for marinating (without opening the door of the refrigerator). Wear gloves. Easy and quick recipe.
Ingredients (meze for 6 people)
300 – 400 gr fresh anchovy
2 cm fresh ginger grated or finely chopped
juice of 2 limes and the zest of one
2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil -preferably Greek
1 tsp whole green peppercorns
1 tsp chilli flakes
1-2 tbs parsley finely chopped
2-3 pinches coriander powder
To prepare the marinated fresh anchovy with ginger and lime: Scale and debone the fishes, one fish at a time. Hold the body and cut away the head while pulling it lengthwise to remove the head along with the backbone. Discard the innards, clean under running water and open flat like a book.
Choose a glass dish and arrange the opened fishes one next to the other in layers. Sprinkle each layer with ginger, add a little kosher salt, peppercorns, some lime juice, a pinch of coriander, pepper flakes and finely add some parsley.
Depending on the size of the glass dish, you can arrange the anchovies in two or more layers. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
To serve: Transfer the marinated fresh anchovy with ginger and lime on a plate, add a little more lime juice and zest and drizzle a line of extra virgin Greek olive oil.