Historic Recipe: Anchovies with Parmesan Cheese (1759)

Source: A Complete System of Cookery by William Verral (1759)

All I want is comfort food at the moment and these seemed to fit the bill. Plus, apart from the anchovies (which took me a little bit to find – Lidl is your friend here), everything else was already in my kitchen.

Fry some bits of bread about the length of an anchovy in good oil or butter, lay the half of an anchovy, with the bone, upon each bit, and strew over them some parmesan cheese grated fine, and colour them nicely in an oven, or with a salamander, squeeze the juice of an orange or lemon, and pile them up in your dish and send them to table.

This seems to be but a trifling thing, but I never saw it come back whole from the table.

I had some leftover homemade sourdough (yes, I have become a sourdough wanker during lockdown) and obviously I used butter, because butter makes everything better. Everything. Fight me. Now you might be wondering what a salamander is and you would not be alone. It turns out it’s a pretty clever piece of equipment for browning things. It’s basically, a flat metal plate with trivet-like legs and a long handle. You stick it in the fire, let it get hot, then wave whatever it is you want browning under the metal plate and voila. Brown things. Anyway, I don’t have one, so I used the grill and finished everything off with a dash of lemon juice.

I ate these for lunch with a nice fresh salad and they were delicious – the combination of crispy bread, salty fish and melted cheese just worked perfectly.

Suggested alterations: Don’t change anything, these are just right the way they are. Unless you don’t like anchovies, I suppose?

Final verdict: I will definitely be making these again


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