On Thursday last week we had sauce-from-fish, and today I thought we would consider sauce-for-fish. So, skimming rapidly across the centuries, may I offer you a quick taste of the possibilities?
14th Century: from a manuscript known as Utilis Coquinario:-
A Dauce Egre
Tak luces or tenches or fresch haddok, & seth them & frye hem in oyle dolieu. & than tak vynegre & the thridde pert sugre & onyounnes smal myced, & boyle alle togedere, & maces & clowes & quybibes. & ley the fish in disches & hyld the sew aboue & serue it forth.
This is essentially a sweet and sour fish dish. The fish are boiled then fried, and served in a saue of vinegar, sugar, and minced onions flavoured with mace, cloves, and cubebs (sometimes called Java pepper.)
15th C: from Two fifteenth-century cookery-books: Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 / edited by Thomas Austin:-
Haddoke in Cyuee.
Shal be yopened & ywasshe clene / & ysode & yrosted on a gridel; grind peper & saffron̛, bred & ale / mynce oynons, fri hem in ale, & do therto, and salt: boille hit, do thyn haddok in plateres, & thi ciuey aboue, & ȝif forth.
In this dish, the prepared fish is boiled then cooked on a griddle, and served with a sauce of ale, bread, and minced onions, spiced with pepper and saffron. ‘Cyvee’ (many alternative spellings) usually refers to a sort of stew or other dish with a sauce thickened with breadcrumbs and minced onions, as above. Sometimes the thickener is blood, as in the ‘modern’ dish which we refer to as a civet.
16th C: from A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye (printed in 1575):-
A Pyke sauce for a Pyke, Breme, Perche, Roche, Carpe, Eles, Floykes
and al maner of brouke fyshe.
Take a posye of Rosemary and time [thyme] and bynde them together, and put in also a quantitye of perselye [parsley] not bounde, and put into the caudron of water, salte and yeste, and the herbes, and lette them boyle a pretye whyle, then putte in the fysshe and a good quantitye of butter, and let them boyle a good season, and you shall have good Pyke sauce.
17th C: from the classic seventeenth century cookery book, The Accomplisht Cook (1685 ed. by Robert May includes several recipes for sauce to serve with carp. I have chosen this one for you today; it is for boiled carp that is to be eaten hot:
Or take three or four anchoves and dissolve them in some white-wine, put them in a pipkin with some slic't horse-raddish, gross pepper, some of the carp liquor, and some stewed oyster liquor, or stewed oysters, large mace, and a whole onion or two; the sauce being well stewed, dissolve the yolks of three or four eggs with some of the sauce, and give it a warm or two, pour it on the carp with some beaten butter, the stewed oysters and slic't lemon, barberries, or grapes.
18th C: from Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1763 ed.):-
To make a strong Fish-Gravy.
TAKE two or three eels, or any fish you have, skin or scale them, and gut them and wash them from grit, cut them into little pieces, put them into a sauce-pan, cover them with water, a little crust of bread toasted brown, a blade or two of mace and some whole pepper, a few sweet herbs, a very little bit of lemon peel. Let it boil till it is rich and good, then have ready a piece of butter, according to your gravy; if a pint, as big as a walnut. Melt it in the sauce-pan, then shake in a little flour, and toss it about till it is brown, and then strain in the gravy to it. Let it boil a few minutes and it will be good.
19th C: and now for something quite different: from Domestic Economy, and Cookery, for Rich and Poor, by a Lady (1827):
Artichoke, an elegant Fish-sauce.
When bottoms are prepared for winter use, collect nil the leaves, cut off the coarser part, and let them simmer till they will pulp; strain the liquor, let it settle, and to every pint add three pints and a half of white wine and one of vinegar; put it into an earthen vessel, and let it simmer half an hour in a bain-marie; let it cool, and bottle it. When it is used, rub a little flour into a quarter of a pound of butter, and put it into three table-spoonfuls of the sauce, or put it in, in pieces, and melt it, mixed with a little flour, as melted butter; add four table-spoonfuls of cream, veloute, or rich stock, and let it boil.