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An Anchovy Tour of the Mediterranean Coast

Sights, stories and recipes from the anchovy coast in France and Spain.

Catalonia anchovies

Catches are so slim these days that fish have to be trucked into Catalonia from the Atlantic coast.

From the old port town of L’Escala, Spain, up the Costa Brava to the Côte Vermeille in southernmost France, this 100-kilometre stretch of shoreline is where the small, oily anchovy has been fished, salted, cured and preserved since the Greeks colonized the region some 2,600 years ago. Walk into any restaurant and you’ll find them marinated in olive oil, salted or pickled as boquerónes: Welcome to anchovy heaven.

Popularized in the early aughts by Catalan chef Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, Spanish anchovies – plump and meaty, unlike the overly salty pizza toppers North Americans were accustomed to – are still in relentless demand. But all that hype coincides with, and has contributed to, declining stocks in the Mediterranean.

Photographer Xavier Tera captured the region’s love affair with the fish – a relationship that defines its economy, culture and cuisine – meeting the fishermen, salters and cooks for whom the anchovy is a livelihood, and tasting precious local delicacies like suquet, a traditional Catalan fish stew.

Mediterranean sea

What you sea is what you get.

Traditional Catalan suquet

Locals prepare a traditional Catalan suquet on the beach in Collioure, France.

The crew of Germans Sureda Busquets

The crew of Captain Josep Lluís Sureda’s Germans Sureda Busquets unpack another measly haul of anchovies.

Marie Roque

Family matriarch Marie Roque greets customers at Anchois Roque, one of Collioure’s oldest anchovy houses.

Suquet

Simmered with fresh fish and potatoes, suquet is a one-pot meal that brings everyone to the table.

Café Lola

Residents gather at Café Lola, a social hub in the centre of town.

Cadaqués, Spain

Net gains: searching for sea urchins in the port of Cadaqués, Spain.

Anchovy fillets

Marie Roque packs up a jar of her famous anchovy fillets.

Collioure’s harbour

Traditional fishing boats dock alongside modern vessels in Collioure’s harbour.

Rock formation

Sign of the times: a rock formation eroded by the Mediterranean Sea.

L’Escala

Palms cast afternoon shadows in L’Escala, on the Spanish side of the border.

Anchois Roque

Anchois Roque’s salting process is handled by just two women who expertly clean, salt and debone the fish.

Germans Sureda Busquets crew member

A crew member of the 18.5-metre anchovy boat Germans Sureda Busquets, which sets sail from L’Escala, Spain.

The vibrant colours of Collioure

The vibrant colours of Collioure, France’s traditional fishing fleet have inspired paintings by Matisse and Derain.

Routes D914 and N-260 flowers

Stop and smell the bougainvillea: beautiful flora lines routes D914 in France and N-260 in Spain, which take you past pretty villages and quiet pebble beaches.

Barques catalanes

Barques catalanes – brightly painted in Catalan red and gold with sea blue – were used to catch anchovies and sardines until World War II, when they were replaced by industrial trawlers.

Es Baluard

It’s been a family affair since 1967 at Es Baluard, a small restaurant in Cadaqués where harbour views mix with local wines and the classic pa amb tomàquet i anxoves: tomato-rubbed toast topped with umami-laden fish.

Port of Collioure

Telling fish tales by the port of Collioure.

L’Escala sign

This way to L’Escala.


Anchovy Recipes from Anchois Roque

 

Catalan Salad

Catalan Salad

Bring this salad to your next potluck – unless you’re afraid of upstaging everyone else. Serves six.

FOR THE SALAD

  • 2.2 lb tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 6 white pearl onions, sliced
  • 12 oil-packed anchovy fillets
  • ¼ cup pitted black olives
     

FOR THE DRESSING

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (Banyuls, sherry or aged balsamic for a sweeter flavour)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
     

Toss the salad ingredients in a large bowl, then top with anchovies and black olives. Mix the oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss before serving.


Anchois à l’Huile

Anchois à l’Huile

This quintessential dish can also be prepared with whole salted anchovies (8 oz). Serves six.

  • 48 oil-packed anchovy fillets (patted dry)
  • 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Grilled bread
     

Place the anchovies in a terrine dish with the rest of the ingredients. Marinate for at least 24 hours. Drain and serve with grilled bread as an appetizer.


Catalan Anchovies

Catalan Anchovies

Enjoy this simple dish on its own as an appetizer, or for lunch, with crusty bread. Serves four.

  • 12 oil-packed anchovy fillets
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, cut lengthwise into quarters
  • 2 roasted red bell peppers, skins, stems and seeds removed, cut into large strips
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Banyuls or sherry vinegar
     

Arrange the anchovies on a large plate with the eggs and roasted red peppers. Top with garlic, parsley, olive oil and vinegar.

Tags

FRANCE     SPAIN