Anchovy and rice pilaf

Anchovy and rice pilaf

Hamsili pilav

Eat Istanbul
David Loftus

The Black Sea region is famed for its anchovy dishes. This is its most popular although they’re cooked every which way – salted, baked, fried, stewed, stuffed, added to omelettes, corn bread and pide and even made into a jelly-like dessert! If you don’t have a metal cake or pudding mould, you can use an ovenproof glass or earthenware dish.


Quantity Ingredient
80g currants
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
400g long-grain white rice, washed
60g pine nuts
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
bunch fresh dill, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
750g fresh anchovies, cleaned, butterflied and deboned
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
drizzle extra virgin olive oil
finely chopped fresh dill
lemon wedges


Quantity Ingredient
oval or round ovenproof tin, mould or glass bowl, 800-ml capacity


  1. Soak the currants in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and sauté the onion until softened or for about 5 minutes. Add the rice, drained currants and pine nuts, mix well and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the mint, dill, parsley, cinnamon and allspice and season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add about 500ml water, stir well, lower the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 12–15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, take off the lid, cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Brush the oval or round ovenproof container with some of the melted butter. Line the inside of the tin with anchovies, skin side down, making sure that they overlap. You want a continuous seal all around and up the side of the container. You should have a few anchovies left.
  5. Spoon the rice mixture over the anchovies, carefully pressing it down with a spatula or wooden spoon. Cover the mixture with the remaining anchovies, skin side up, brush with the remaining melted butter and place some baking paper or aluminium foil over the top.
  6. Carefully invert the container onto a baking tray (leaving the container in place) and bake in the preheated oven for 25–30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before serving.
  7. To serve, very carefully invert the baking tray and container so that the tray is on top. Remove the tray and gently peel off the paper or foil. Place a serving plate over the top and carefully invert the container onto the serving plate. Shake the container slightly and lift to reveal the pilaf. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dill. Use a sharp knife to cut the pilaf into wedges and transfer to plates with a cake slice. Squeeze lemon wedges over and eat immediately.
Turkish food
Middle Eastern
Andy Harris
David Loftus
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