I was delighted to get some fresh anchovy fillets, hamsi, as we call in Turkish at my local market a few weeks ago. This small, oily fish, caught from October in Turkey, is much loved and a big part of the Turkish cuisine, especially at the Black Sea coast. There are many recipes celebrating anchovy at Turkey’s Black Sea region, from fried anchovies, hamsi tava, to anchovies poached in vine leaves, from anchovy bread to hamsi pilavi, delicious rice with pine nuts and currants, encased in anchovy fillets. Anchovy, hamsi lovers apparently even make anchovy jam at the Black Sea region!
I simply love poaching this delicious, strongly flavored anchovy fillets with layers of vegetables in a little water and olive oil. This method of cooking is called “bugulama” (steamed) in Turkish cuisine; not only healthy but also delicately brings out the flavors of each component here. Tomatoes, potatoes, onions add a lovely flavor in their own juice and balance strong taste of anchovies. Slices of lemon and parsley also add a delicious, refreshing taste; all in one pot, healthy dish, packed with flavor. Any small fish or fillets of white fish, as well as sardines would also work well in this dish. You may be able to get your anchovies gutted and cleaned by your fishmonger or buy as fillets.
You can enjoy this poached anchovies with vegetables or anchovy stew as a mezze to share, or a main course.
- 450gr/1 lb. anchovies (or sardines or a fish of your choice), scaled, gutted, head & tail removed
- 2 medium potatoes, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 3 spring (green) onions, finely chopped
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 45 ml/ 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 fl. oz. / ½ cup water
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Turkish red pepper flakes or chili flakes to taste (optional)
- Combine the onions, spring onions, parsley and 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt, ground black pepper and red pepper flakes (if using). Knead well with your hands to infuse the spices to the onion; this will also soften them and release their juice.
- Parboil (partially cook) the potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 – 7 minutes then drain the water.
- Stir in the parboiled potatoes to the onion mixture and combine well.
- Layer the onions and potatoes on a wide, heavy pan.
- Lay the anchovy fillets (or the fish of your choice) evenly on top of onions and potatoes.
- Next layer the slices of tomatoes and lemon over the fish. Season with salt and ground black pepper to your taste.
- Drizzle 1 tbsp. olive oil over and pour in the water to the pan.
- Cover and start cooking over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Then lower the heat and cook for 15 -20 minutes (depending on the size of the fish), or until fish and vegetables are cooked.
- Serve hot with some crusty bread aside if you like.