I first made anchovy butter in my kitchen at home on the cusp of autumn 2019. Faced with a pile of courgettes to use and a recipe book to write, I began to throw together whatever I had to hand to turn the pile of fat green vegetables in my fridge drawer into delicious dishes. It was 2pm, and I was trying to wrap up soon so I could pick my son up from school. I wanted something super quick, simple and that would keep for my dinner that evening. I poured a tin of anchovies in the blender, along with all of the oil, and added butter, on a whim. I pulsed it, watching the butter whip to a cupcake frosting consistency, flecked with freckles of brown. I gently braced myself as I dipped a tentative finger in. The smell was overpowering – I closed my eyes and sucked that finger and I swear my ovaries and arteries both gave the same deep internal groan – one in pleasure, one in fear. This is how I will die, I thought to myself. Spooning anchovy butter from my blender until my heart packs in. Like Elvis Presley, but with a touch more dignity, and a faint aroma of the sea.
Friends, this anchovy butter is phenomenal. For my vegetarian readers, you could substitute anchovies for Henderson’s relish, if you’re still reading this far. And it didn’t keep for dinner. I ran all the way to school, late, because I devoured the entire pan meant for two with no regrets at all.
First pop your butter into the small cup of a bullet blender and tip the anchovies over the top, making sure to include any oil from the tin or jar. Pulse until well combined, then transfer to a clean jar with a lid until needed.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and feed in the spaghetti or linguine gently, pushing it in as the submerged ends start to soften, until it all collapses into the boiling pan. If you’re in a hurry, you can snap it in half and sling the lot in, but on occasion I find something quite soothing about standing watching spaghetti soften.
Drain and rinse the lentils and tip them into the pan a moment after the pasta. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 8–10 minutes until the pasta is cooked.
While the pasta cooks, grate your courgette using the fat holes on the side of a box grater or a julienne peeler, if you have one. Set to one side with the anchovy butter – you’ll need both in a moment.
When the spaghetti is cooked and the lentils are soft, drain both together then return them to the pan. Add the courgette to wilt in the residual heat of the spaghetti, then add the anchovy butter a tablespoon at a time, to taste. I like
Finish with plenty of black pepper and a dash of lemon juice to brighten those deep intense flavours, and serve piping hot.
Will keep in the fridge for 2 days; reheat until piping hot to serve. The leftover butter will also keep in a clean jar for up to 4 days. Not recommended for freezing.
© Jack Monroe, 2020