Fish Recipes from 1707

Fish Kettle, Felbrigg HallWhole Halibut inside.

Copper Fish Kettle, Felbrigg Hall
Whole Halibut inside.

Since it’s Friday, I thought I would share some fish recipes from Katherine Windham’s[1] Booke of Cooking and Housekeeping of 1707, transcribed by my friends Bonnie Lovelock and Roger Sykes.

Note the use of fish you will not find in the fishmonger’s or supermarket today. Felbrigg Hall has a large lake formed by damming a stream which runs down a shallow valley to the west of the house. I suspect that was the main source of freshwater fish like these. Other recipes include ‘crawfish’ (freshwater crayfish) which might be found in the stream itself.

Oddly for a house barely four miles from the sea, there are few recipes for sea fish, other than flatfish. Oysters do figure heavily though. Perhaps this reflects the nature of the North Norfolk coastal area, which is mostly a strip of sea-marsh and freshwater marshes behind beaches of shingle. What few cliffs there are are low and easily worn away by the sea.

Sea fish—any fish—did not keep well in the days before refrigeration, so a reliance on what could be found locally was probably the best way to avoid food-poisoning!

To Broyle a Tench[2]

Take yr Tench scald ym & wash ym in warm water, slite ym down ye bely all ye way, yn take a preety deal of winter Savory & parsly, wash & mince ym preety fine with an oynion or two, mix ym with a good peice of butter, turn ye Tench ye inside outward, & sow it up with ye buter & hearbs broyle it on a Grid Iron, till it is brown all sides, droping on it ye while a peice of buter, yn take buter melt it with an Anjovy[3] 1st washed & boned, yn take out ye hearbs put ym into ye buter, stir ym together dish it & pour ye sauce on it,

To Stew Carp in ye blood

Take yr carp a live & scale ym, wash ye scales off, lay ym in a dish, let ym blood in ye tail, yn take out ye Guts clean without breaking ym, yn wash ye belys with Claret vinager & salt, yn pour it on ym & a pint of Claret, so let ym lye a good while before you set ym on to stew, alow a pint of wine to every Carp, & 3 qu[4] of a pint of water, & a qu of a pint of vinager, or more as it is in sharpness, a bundle of sweethearbs, cloves mace peper Ginger, horsradish, Lemon peel, 1 onion & 2 Anjovis, a litle peice of buter, put it all on ye fire together, when one side is don take ym of, & let ym stand a litle to Coole, yn turn ym & set ym on again, let them doe very softly.
 yn for ye sauce you must take some of ye liquor, as they wear stewed in, with some fresh Claret, 4 Anjovis, a litle spice of all sorts, ye peel of a lemon cut in dice, thicken it with grated bread, When all is boyled a good while put buter in it, Just when you put ye buter in put in 3 or 4 spoonfulls of liquor, from yr carp, with a litle beaten ginger, you must not put ye Lemon in dice till ye last, dish it up with cut Lemon & slices of bread cut Longwaise fryed crisp
The liquor is left of stewing ye carp will keep a great while, for fish sauce,

(Katherine says she had this recipe from a Mrs Early, but who that was is not known.)

To Dresse Carp a good way not so Rich

Take Carp save ye blood & scrap ye scales of[f] Clean, take ye blood & water enough to cover ym, an onion & a bundle of sweethearbs some charlotte[5] & a litle vinager, when ye are 1⁄2 enough drain ye water from ym clean, yn put in a bottle of Claret, mace, peper & Lemon peel, when ye are enough, take out some liquor & boyle in it, some Anjovis, shread Lemon peel, grated nutmeg, peper, a few cloves & mace beaten, & sweet marjerum shread[6] small yn put in yr buter & a litle Juice of Lemon, & thicken it with an egg,

  1. For information on Katherine and Felbrigg Hall, her house in Norfolk, see the first post in this series ↩
  2. A European freshwater fish, a bottom-feeder with smooth, slimy scales and an olive-green colour. No one today would bother with eating one. I believe the little taste they have is very muddy.  ↩
  3. Anjovy: anchovy  ↩
  4. qu: quarter  ↩
  5. Charlotte: (or Sharlotte) is probably Charlocke (field mustard).  ↩
  6. shread: shredded  ↩

About William Savage

Independent researcher and author of mystery stories set in Georgian Norfolk.
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