British food once possessed a bad reputation. It still does in some circles. Outside of London, “overdone” may still be the appropriate adjective for the meat at the local fare. But surely in London there is culinary grandeur. London is huge, rich, culturally diverse and offers an urban population on the move for new and better things.
One of the new bright spots in London is Pitt Cue Co, a British riff on American barbecue. But the boys at Pitt have not forgotten their origins. They weave in British standards on their menu — like barbecued roast beef — and in their cookbook. Here we have a powerful salad dressing, Anchovy Salad Cream, that is their version of the Heinz salad cream that you find in every store.
Heinz has a huge presence in the United Kingdom: vinegar, of course, and salad dressing and baked beans and more. Fish and chips? You’ll find bottles of Heinz on every table.
I have a theory that the “sourness” that is so characteristic of “basic” British food fare stems from geography. England is about as far away from the old spice trade routes as possible. And Olde England was not a particularly rich realm. Rich or not, food needs to preserved and tasty. If you cannot afford spices, then vinegar is a serious substitute.
Heinz salad cream gets its dominant sour flavor from anchovies. The recipe below calls for 5 ½ ounces of anchovy. I only used 3 ounces. I cannot imagine what it would taste like with 5 ½ in the blender. I think my mouth would pucker permanently shut.
That intense anchovy flavor, which some folks love and others run from, comes from the preserving process. Fresh anchovies are mild and are best enjoyed on an Italian beach. It takes preserving chemistry to produce the pucker. While we think of anchovies as small things, there are 140+ species with some up to 16 inches in length. Often we associate anchovies with European cuisine, and they certainly are integral to Mediterranean cuisines. But who catches the most anchovies each year? Peru. 70% of the world’s total catch. That’s a lot of Caesar salads.
Anchovy Salad Dressing
Yield: 3 cups
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
- 2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 ½ ounces Cantabrian anchovy fillets [or less if you are like me]
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
- 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
Put all the ingredients, except the cream into a blender and blitz for about 30 seconds. Slowly add the cream, blitzing until just incorporated.
Source: House Rub from Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/40th second at ISO-3200