Crisp Lettuce, Anchovy, Egg and Crouton Salad with a Creamy Vinaigrette
The future of fish stocks is not all bad news. In February, I went to a tinned anchovy producer in the Cantabrian port of Laredo. I was told they were one of the best producers of anchovies in Spain, and that actually means in the world, because even the Italians grudgingly admit that the anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea, salted, hand-filleted and preserved in Spanish olive oil, are the best. However, during my first visit they said they were processing anchovies from Argentina because the local fishery had been closed for four years, but they were confident that later that spring the local ones would be coming in on the boats again. And so it proved to be, and lots of them. It only goes to show that with a bit of care and stock management, four years can change everything in a fishery. These tinned anchovies have what I can only describe as a sweetness that I’ve never tasted before, and quite rightly the locals rank them up there with truffles and caviar. This isn’t a traditional Spanish salad but I do think it draws attention to their superb flavour
- 3 x 40g slices white crusty bread, cut 1cm thick
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 6 medium free-range eggs
- 3 little gem lettuce
- 50g (approx. 12) large anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained and cut on the diagonal into 2.5cm pieces
- For the dressing:
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 1 large free-range egg yolk
- 1tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp caster sugar
- 150ml extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the croutons, preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Cut the crusts off the bread and tear the remainder into small pieces. Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil. Spread them on a baking tray and bake for 5–7 minutes or until crisp and golden. Remove and leave to cool. Then season lightly with salt.
Meanwhile, put the eggs into a pan of boiling water and hard-boil for 8 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water. For the dressing, put the garlic, egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice, sugar and some seasoning into a small bowl. Mix together briefly with a hand-held electric whisk, then slowly whisk in the oil to make a smooth dressing.
Discard the outside leaves of the lettuce if necessary and tear the rest into small pieces. Wash and dry well, then spread over the base of 6 medium serving plates. Peel the hard-boiled eggs and cut them into quarters. Arrange 4 pieces over each plate of lettuce leaves with the 4 strips of anchovy fillet and a few croutons. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of dressing over each plate and serve straight away.