Salty, briny, rich, powerful umami goodness in the form of a thick paste, ready to transform dishes in the blink of an eye. Now, i can’t say this is an exact replica of the flavour of actual anchovy paste, seeing as how i never had any of it before i became veg, however, it hits all the same marks and serves the same purpose. Also, i believe you should be able to sub it in any recipe that calls for the real thing at the same amount, or 1/2 of a teaspoon for each anchovy filet called for. This is some seriously intense and wonderful stuff here.
240g/ml | 1 cup dark vegetable broth
45g/ml | 3 Tbsp liquid from fermented tofu (white or red)
30g/ml | 2 Tbsp caper brine
30g/ml | 2 Tbsp chinese light soy sauce*
10g/ml | 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
9g | 1 large clove garlic, sliced
1.5g | 2”x3” piece of kombu
5g | 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
30g | 2 Tbsp aka (red) miso
3 bay leaves
30g | 3 Tbsp capers
60g | 20 whole pitted kalamata olives
11g | 2 tsp fine salt
5.5g | 1 tsp MSG crystals (optional)
52g/60ml | ¼ cup refined coconut oil or olive oil
15g | packed ½ cup shiitake mushroom powder**
Bring all liquids, garlic, kombu, nutritional yeast, miso, and bay leaves to a light boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer for 10 minutes
Turn off heat and allow to rest, covered, for 20 minutes
Strain into blender, add remaining ingredients except for shiitake and blend until smooth
Return to pan and bring to a hard simmer while stirring, whisk or stir in shiitake powder until combined and simmer for about 2 minutes
Return to blender and puree until smooth (if wanted), pour into clean, sanitised jars and allow to cool before placing in the fridge or freezer
Will keep in the fridge for at least 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to a year
*you can sub 1 ½ Tbsp of japanese dark soy (standard supermarket soy) or tamari + ½ Tbsp of water + just a pinch of salt. **you can make shiitake mushroom powder by blending or grinding dried shiitake in your blender or a (clean) coffee/spice grinder
Most of the ingredients should be pretty familiar, and a lot are used on their own as anchovy subs, the one that might be new to you is the fermented tofu (we just use the liquid for this) which is a funky aged tofu in liquid that you can pick up at your local asian shop (or online.) I HIGHLY recommend seeking it out, it is invaluable for this recipe and for the recipes for oyster sauce and fish sauce, adding a fermented ammoniacal quality from the breakdown of proteins that you just won’t get from anything else. The shiitake powder can be easily made in a blender or grinder by blitzing dried shiitake (break them up or use slices) until fine, note that the powder will be very fluffy and get everywhere (look at my poor picture up there, stupid dust gets everywhere!) and if you’re using volume measurements, pack it down to get as accurate of measure as possible.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s move on to the other players, i’m going to skip mentioning umami from here out as all of these ingredients bring that to the table. To finish off the liquids we have caper brine for the briny quality it brings (go figure), chinese light soy for color and salt, worcestershire sauce for tang, a whisper of sweetness and a touch of spiced elements, and some dark vegetable broth for some sweet elements and to round out some of the flavours. We have shiitake mushroom powder forming the bulk of the paste, kalamata olives and capers for their briny qualities and richness, aka (red) miso for some of that fermented funk, sweetness and a little sharpness, kombu for an oceanic quality, nutritional yeast to bring in some much needed soft buttery notes, bay leaves to meld flavours together and add a hint of herbal tea notes, and garlic for pep and sharpness. Finishing things off there is oil (either refined coconut or olive work perfectly fine) for mouthfeel and to help carry flavours, salt….for…saltiness…this helps with preservation and to bring it closer to the “real thing”, and finally, you can choose to add MSG or not, i highly recommend you do. Even though almost everything else used is high in msg/free glutamates already, this really does transform the paste and actually helps to mellow things out, reducing some of the sharp edges. You can sub with the same amount of mushroom granules/seasoning if that is what you have on hand or feel more comfortable with, it will give you a similar result, but saltier, so you may want to reduce the salt a little.
Once you’ve gathered everything up, this recipe is very easy to do and requires very little active time on your part. The bay leaves, nooch, miso, kombu, and garlic are simmered, steeped, and strained, then everything but the shiitake powder is blended smooth, returned to a light boil/heavy simmer, then the powder is whisked in until smooth, cooked for just a minute or two and it’s done. I prefer a super smooth paste, so i blend it a final time, but this is up to you, it’s perfectly fine without the final blend, just a little grainier depending on how fine your mushroom powder is. Straight out of the pan this tastes very potently of kalamata olives, however, after cooling the flavours meld together and the first hit of flavour you get is heavy on olive but then fades into a rich delight that’s hard to describe, it’s very “meaty”, buttery, and briny, with an unmistakable soft oceanic quality.
You can use this to whip up some fantastic puttanesca sauce, or some insanely quick Cappellini con aglio, oleo e alice spread it (thinly) on bread or crostini, mix with some olive oil for dipping, use it to bump up some boring bland tomato sauce, use it on pizza, stir it into brothy soups for some crazy delicious added richness, you can make a delicious quick pasta by using this with some garlic, pepper, and olive oil….any time you want some rich umami yum, this will be there for you. It will keep for at least a few weeks in the fridge (tightly covered in a clean, sanitised jar of course) or at least a year in the freezer (honestly i go through it so fast i can’t say for sure how long it lasts, but the high salt content should ensure a long life.) A nice way to have it ready to use straight from the freezer is to freeze it up in measured amounts, just scoop whatever amount you want onto a lined sheet or plate (or ice cube tray), pop in the freezer until frozen, then toss them in a bag. That way they’re ready to go when you are. Now, go whip up some of this magic paste and try not to eat it all straight away! [i dare you. i double dare you.]
A final note, You may balk at the idea of making something so high in sodium, but keep in mind, you’ll use this quite judiciously, you’re not eating this (hopefully) by the spoonful, when using in recipes, always reduce or eliminate any added salt and simply season with more at the end to taste.