Photo: Brit & Co
Diverse and indigenous cuisine brought by the many ethnic people to St. Maarten from all over the world piques our interest. To this end, we are on a quest to find where it comes from, if it is used for celebrations, if it is exotic to some but everyday food to others. Anything to do with keeping the body and soul nourished with that which is produced from good old terra firma, is what makes the world go around.
How many times over the years have we found that a product we love has been taken off the market? In my case, the first one I missed was a shampoo that made my hair (in my mind) the most gorgeous golden halo. No other shampoo, before or since (in my mind) has had the same result.
I have experienced this particularly with food products, however – not necessarily because they have disappeared off the shelves, but because we travelled to countries that don’t ship them in.
One such food product we have loved, since childhood, has been a fish paste made only by Pecks. We were delighted to find we could get this particular brand right here on island.
Peck’s Anchovette is made from finest quality filleted anchovies, mackerel and pilchards. Pecks Anchovette is available worldwide. The spread contains over 90 percent fish and is an excellent source of essential omega 3 oils. Flavours have been extended to include peri-peri, Jalapeno and smoked salmon spread.
Recently, though, we heard that Pecks Anchovette is to be discontinued and, following the hype online, we see how this product will be missed along with Redro Fish Paste, another similar product!
Peck’s Anchovette first appeared on the shelves in England way back in 1891. The product first appeared on the South African shelves in the 1960s. A similar product up until that point in South Africa was Redro, a local fish paste spread developed from a family recipe in the 1930s.
“An iconic ad in the 80’s showed a wee lad enjoying a slice of Redro fish paste on toast. He was asked the name of his pets – they were all called “Wedwo” and so too was his tricycle and “everything I love is called Wedwo” … The mother’s face then appeared on the screen saying “Because…?” and the wee lad followed through with “It makes me big and strong!”
Now whether either of these fish pastes made one big and strong, I do not know; all I know is, like so many others, we loved fish paste with a passion. Most memories from childhood had this spread featuring somewhere.
We loved it on toast with lots of butter!
We absolutely adored it when we were quite young and our mums spread it on toast, cut the toast into “soldiers” and served it alongside a soft-boiled egg. Perfect for dunking in! We loved it on plain white-bread with torn strips of iceberg lettuce, which was seldom cut as we were warned “lettuce goes brown when finely sliced!” One was told one could only tear up the lettuce leaves!
The company who makes this paste in South Africa notified the country that “production of Peck’s Anchovette and Redro fish paste was to cease as of December 2021!” No warning – they just ceased production! Oh, how the people are beating their chests and making mournful wails!
Anchovette is what we called it; everyone knew what we were referring to. The other product was known by its brand name, Redro. This is a pungent spread which one either loves or hates (by the outcry of it ceasing to exist, it seems that it is loved by most).
Of late, due to this Covid problem, shelves have been emptied of many products. For us on island, we have heard that containers are late in arriving on our shores, flights are delayed – mostly all due to there not being many or enough folk to fill the jobs needed to bring the products. We have even heard that the production of goods is down, too, because so many are “out” with the virus!
But we had the idea in the back of our minds that the product we love so much would soon be back on the shelves. This will not be happening with our beloved fish paste!
People asked why production had ceased, and as so often happens, word got around on social media that it was to save the penguins. Admittedly the penguins are not apparently getting their full quota of sardines and pilchards swimming by. (Penguins appeared one day in some bays around the most Southern African coastline where they had never been before. With the fish being plentiful, the colonies grew huge, making for a really great tourist attraction.)
The official story, which has been quoted extensively, is: “We made the decision to discontinue production of our Redro and Peck’s fish paste products towards the end of last year. This was part of our ongoing portfolio review.”
So, despite the nostalgia and childhood memories linked to this fish paste, there is a business reason behind the ceasing of production!
There is another product on the shelves (I have not seen this) that proclaims to be a type of fish paste. Made in France, enjoyed by some, it is not like the original product. Here is a homemade paste to try. You will get a similar result to the original which should keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
Fish Paste – this is one of those recipes you can adapt to your preference. Go easy on the anchovy addition if you are not into salty, but start with at least half a tin.
2 tins sardines in oil or water, drained
1 tin anchovies in oil, drained – reserve oil
1-2 TBL tomato paste
Chili flakes – optional
Drain sardines and remove any tiny bones.
Place in small blender.
Add anchovies, half the tin or more (anchovies are the umami in this recipe but they are salty).
Add tomato paste, again as much as you prefer.
Add about half the drained oil from the anchovies.
Add a couple chili flakes if you like things a bit spicy.
Whizz it all up to make a fine paste.
Bottle it and keep it in the fridge.
To serve (some ideas):
Spread on a hot, buttered bread roll.
Slice up cucumber, garnish with a blob of fish paste and chopped parsley.
Spread on hot toast, eat as is or with soft boiled egg.
Spread on crackers, and top with a slice of Gouda cheese.
Mix with cream cheese, chopped celery and use as a dip for julienned veggies/salad.
Top hot toast spread with the fish paste with sliced tomato and a poached egg.
Roast lamb with anchovy cream – Many people have a true aversion to anchovies but, used sparingly in a number of recipes, they certainly add a bit of umami that is not discernible to one’s taste buds. This recipe blatantly uses a sauce on the side; therefore, eat it or not, depending on your preferences.
2kg leg lamb
6 garlic cloves, slice half, crush the rest
16 anchovies in oil, drained and halved
50g butter, softened
175ml dry white wine
2 TBL rosemary leaves – keep the twigs too
50ml extra virgin olive oil
150ml double cream
Preheat oven 450° F.
Place lamb in tin just big enough for it.
Make small incisions all over the lamb using a sharp knife.
Push a piece of sliced garlic into the slit along with half an anchovy.
Roast 20 minutes.
Reduce temperature to 375° F.
Tuck the sprigs of rosemary under the lamb.
Add wine and sprinkle chopped rosemary leaves over the lamb.
Roast 50 minutes, spooning the juices over the lamb every so often.
Remove lamb to platter, cover with foil.
Leave to rest for 15-20 minutes.
Finely dice remaining anchovies.
Heat oil in frying pan.
Add crushed garlic and anchovies; cook over a low heat.
Anchovies should dissolve into the oil.
Remove from heat and whisk in the cream.
Season only with pepper.
Make a gravy with the lamb juices in the pan.
Serve with the lamb.
Granadilla Fridge Tart – one thing we don’t have a shortage of is passion/granadilla fruit. This is a perfect tart for our summery weather. The seeds are fine in this recipe but if you are not into the seeds; just use the juice!
1 packet Marie Biscuits / Tennis biscuits / Digestive biscuits
1 Lemon Jelly
220g Passion/ Granadilla pulp
125g Butter, melted
1 tin Condensed Milk
Crush the biscuits.
Stir in melted butter.
Press into an 8-inch pie plate as a base and up the sides.
Mix one packet lemon jelly with 3/4 cup boiling water, stir well.
Add passion/granadilla pulp, stir well.
Stir in 1 tin condensed milk, stir together well.
Pour onto the biscuit base.
Chill until set.
If you like, drizzle with a little pulp, blobs with fresh cream and mint leaves.