Baked Anchovies with Tomatoes
300 g (10½ oz) fresh anchovies gutted and deboned, or 500 g (17½ oz) whole fish
4 tbsp flat-leaved (Italian) parsley, chopped (10 g / 1/3 oz)
½ lemon, peel and juice
2 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
1/3 tsp oregano, dried
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 – 6 cherry tomatoes (50 g / 1¾ oz)
Salt end pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). If your fishmonger is not prepared to clean the anchovies for you, this is what you do: snap off the head towards its belly with your fingers, pulling the innards with it. Cut off the tail, open up the fish as you would a book and carefully remove the backbone. Rinse the fish under cold running water in a sieve, drain and dry off the fish with some kitchen towelling. Place the anchovies in rows in a lightly oiled shallow baking dish . They should be closed, not open like a book. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Chop the parsley, grate the lemon and press it to obtain two teaspoons of juice, then mix all together in a small bowl with the breadcrumbs, oregano, 2 teaspoons of oil and a pinch of salt. Cover the anchovies evenly with the mixture. Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters and scatter them over the fish. Bake in the upper part of the oven for 20 minutes or until the breadcrumbs turn golden.
Baked anchovies is a highly nutritious and inexpensive main course or starter. Anchovies are not only very rich in protein, nutrients and in particularly in Omega 3, but has very low levels of mercury, which unfortunately can be found in all fish. The levels of this highly toxic metal steadily increase with the size of the fish. Sword fish with 0.995 milligram of mercury per kilogram is very close to the recommended maximum limit of 1 mg/kg, which is the reason why it should be eaten no more than twice a month, and some health professionals advice to avoid sword fish altogether. Anchovies, on the other hand, have only 0.016 mg/kg, and considering health recommendations of eating fish 2 – 3 times a week, these tasty little fish should definitely be part of your diet, if not already so.