Fish Custard

Update: Since we posted this recipe, we’ve learned that our fish custard might have been tastier had we prepared it using different methods and ingredients. Please see the comments for a variety of helpful suggestions. And if you successfully recreate this dish, please let us know!

Some recipes should stay in the archives.

We’ve had surprising success so far with these early modern recipes. All have been edible, most have been pretty tasty, and a few – like the inaugural mac and cheese and some spiced “jumball” cookies we’ll tell you about soon – have been downright great. So, we thought, let’s branch out and have a more daring culinary adventure. When Marissa found this recipe for “fish custard” (that’s right, Marissa, I’m blaming you), we thought immediately of Doctor Who’s infamous snack:

doctor-who-fish-custard_1653637_GIFSoup.com (1)

The Doctor makes fish fingers and custard look pretty tasty. And while we suspected that fish custard might not prove our favorite recipe from this project, how bad could it really be?

Bad. So. Very. Bad.

This fish custard comes from UPenn Manuscript LJS 165, a collection of  recipes in multiple hands, written and gathered together sometime between 1690 and 1802. Readers could consult the collection to find other culinary recipes but also to find out about various household remedies, like how to cure colic (presumably, by not making someone eat this dish) or to kill moths (probably by setting out a bowl of fish custard, thereby driving all living things out of the vicinity).

Please don’t try this at home. No, really. Please don’t.

 

The Recipe

fish custard

ffish Custard

One pound of Almons beat them small, in the beating

put in the Row of a Pike 4 dates cut and the yolkes of

4 Eggs temper it with cold water Straine it through a

Strainer & make a quart of it Season it with Suger Rosewater

Salt pxxxxe beaten Mace When it is Baked scrape suger on

Our version:

1 c. ground almonds

1 to 1 1/2 tbsp. fish roe (ours was salmon)

3 dates, seeded and roughly chopped

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

1/4 c. whole milk

1/4 c. sugar

1 tsp. rosewater

1/8 tsp. ground mace

a few pinches of salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a small casserole dish. Stir together all ingredients, then spread evenly in casserole dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

We quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a traditional custard – the ratio of almonds to dairy is much too high to produce anything like a creamy texture. (The original recipe did include straining, but that would have removed all of the almonds and dates, which seemed counterproductive.) To make the mixture stir-able, we added a few spoonfuls of milk. We were unsure how vigorously to beat in the fish roe: should the eggs be broken down and, liquified, dispersed evenly throughout the custard? Or should they maintain their shape? We erred on the side of folding them in gently. It’s possible that we should have put the whole mixture in the food processor; this might have improved the final texture somewhat, though it’s unlikely to have helped the taste.

This recipe raised some interesting questions for us about interpreting early modern culinary instructions: with other recipes, we’ve had some idea of how they would turn out, especially when we started cooking and realized that they resembled some modern-day counterpart. This similarity provided some guidance; even when the original recipe’s instructions weren’t quite clear to us, we could extrapolate from other knowledge and proceed with some degree of confidence. The addition of the fish roe, in fact, threw us off less than the realization that this “custard” would not resemble anything we would call by that name. We were apprehensive – which seems a valid reaction to a fishy dessert – but also curious. What would the texture be like? Would the fish roe somehow pair beautifully with the almonds and dates in a salty-earthy-sweet combination?

 

The Results

Big surprise: dates, almonds, and fish roe don’t play well together. And the rosewater just made things worse. The “custard” resembled a bar cookie: very firm and sliceable into squares. In fact, it was quite dry, to the point that even if it had tasted good (ha!), eating more than a few bites wouldn’t have been very appealing. Another texture issue: baked fish roe either explodes warmly when chewed or takes on an off-putting rubberiness. We took tiny servings and managed a spoonful. (I think the fact that we did so speaks highly to our research initiative.)

So, was this failure our fault? The fault of the recipe? Should we write off early modern palates as utterly mystifying? Was the mere existence of this recipe a joke from the time-traveling Doctor? We’re willing to believe that the original execution of this recipe was probably more appealing than our effort, though we doubt that this would ever have tasted good.

Readers, we did this for you. You’re welcome. Now, please excuse me while I go brush my teeth again.

 

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72 thoughts on “Fish Custard

  1. Reblogged this on DailyHistory.org and commented:
    Cooking in the Archives is not always risk free. This week, the folks at Cooking in the Archives tried to make Fish Custard. “Bad. So. Very. Bad.” The blog post proves that while it is fun to try and make great archival recipes, it is even more fun to read about the truly terrible ones. We probably should send them a bottle of wine for their bravery and to wash out the flavor of fish custard.

    • Thanks for the re-blogging! (And, honestly, it was not fun to taste but definitely fun to write about this utter failure.)

      • When I read the recipe, it seemed very plain to me that all of the “hard” items (non-liquid) were to be strained. Had you done that, perhaps you would have had a custard, rather than your hard cookie bars. As for the taste, who knows? Maybe straining all the other stuff out may have made “magic” with the remains when cooked. Maybe you can re-try it again sometime this way, if you ever get your courage up to try again.

  2. Yikes. I think to get a custard of more traditional texture you’d have needed to mix the almond mix in the water for a while to make almond ‘milk’ (http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Almond-Milk) before straining. Then you’d have had a sort of eggy, almondy liquid which could bake to creme-caramel kind of texture. If you were lucky. Would have accounted for the dryness better. But I really, really doubt that the flavour would have been improved.

    • That’s such an interesting suggestion. We were unsure about what the recipe meant by tempering the almond mixture with cold water; perhaps the dates would also have helped thicken that almond-milk-like mixture. Good thought! But yes, even this possibility isn’t enough to tempt me into giving this recipe another try. [Shudder.]

      • Alyssa,
        The combination of flavors and the use of almonds, rose water, etc. sounds very medieval. I’m guessing you have a very old recipe–much older than your cookbook–and one that reflects tastes from a much earlier era.
        Regarding the process: I think you’re supposed to temper the eggs with a little water–in other words mix them so that they’ll go into solution. After you have beaten the almonds–definitely a pound and not less because you are making a flavored almond milk–you add the chopped dates and fish roe along with the egg mixture and enough water to make about a quart of volume, as the recipe says. I suspect that you should use a very small amount of fish roe because you don’t want a strong flavor. Then you strain the WHOLE THING–not leaving in any solids. Season, bake, sprinkle with sugar. It should wind up being a very light custard (the proportion of eggs seems smaller than it should be and I have no idea what percentage of egg comes through the straining process–but more if you temper it than if you don’t) with a delicate flavor that’s a little hard to pin down.
        It sounds like this could have been a dish appropriate for someone who was convalescing; another reason why you would keep the fish roe to a minimum so as not to upset their digestion. The addition of the sugar on the top is also a typical medieval touch for otherwise rather savory dishes, but, likewise, might have tempted an invalid to try a little more.

    • You’re right: the pictures look ok, especially if you pretend that the orange bits are diced apricots. And then once you remember that they’re fish roe, the illusion comes crashing down!

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  4. To be fair, I imagine Pike Roe has a very different taste than Salmon Roe. Of the roes I have tried (pollack, herring, flying fish, salmon, smelt, flying fish, urchin), salmon has one of the more distinctive flavors. They’re also very soft and gooey and are by far the largest. A smaller, firmer, more sweet roe would be better dispersed throughout, and might taste better and have better texture. Not sure if Pike roe is sweeter, but it’s certainly smaller. who knows though. In any case, I am really glad you made this. Sososo exciting!

    • I’m sure it does! Salmon Roe was the most affordable and appropriate fish roe we could get our hands on. We’d be very curious to taste Pike Roe in the future.

  5. To me, this is clearly an almond-milk custard recipe. Use the ground almonds, dates and roe (I think I’d have used tobiko rather than salmon, which are very strong) to make a salt-sweet almond milk, strain it well, add the egg yolks (that’s what I’d have change there, the order, although I suppose tempered custard is often strained, too; also I’d have used just yolks and no whole eggs), and then bake it. I think the roe should be beaten in firmly, too, to give flavor but not texture.

    I may try it, when next I can afford the ingredients.

    • These are all interesting suggestions. The liquid content was difficult to estimate because the recipe does not provide any guidance. We added the milk to adjust the recipe once we’d already begun to make the custard. I think if I were ever compelled to try this again, I would add a significant amount of water or milk to create something like an almond milk first. If you end up trying it let us know how it turns out!

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  7. People have mentioned the substitution of Salmon roe, which is a strong taste. According to the Russian caviar sites that sell Pike roe, Pike has a very mild flavor, so this is probably part of the issue.

    Another piece of the issue is that caviar is generally salted and cured, whereas the recipe may well have been using fresh roe, making it far less salty. This would also make it a spring seasonal dish, since obviously you can only get Pike roe at one time of the year.

    • Exactly my thoughts. No where does is state “salted roe” or “preserved roe” or “caviar” so I don’t know why caviar was used. They certainly had the term caviar during the time frame of this recipe. Fresh roe, especially white fish, just has a seafood taste–but not the intense saltiness. Think of the corals attached to fresh scallops. Also, why not strain it if that is what the recipe says? Seems too many steps and ingredients were altered here.

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  10. So I came to your blog from the HuffPo article and I have to say I was excited until I saw this. Your reaction to this recipe is really juvenile and now is contributing to the “ick, people used to be weeeeird” perception of pre-industrialized food (including that tired “people in the middle ages/early modern period used heavy spices because their meat was rotten, etc”…nope…they traded heavily with the middle east). Food tastes change but our modern tastes were deliberately crafted by modern food scientists to sell convenience foods. It took a lot of marketing to convince people to eat shit like processsed cheese, for instance, and that’s a lot grosser than this recipe, had you understood what your end product should have been. Anyway, your scholarship is also way off and it really shows here. This is clearly an adaptation of a blancmange meant for Lenten consumption. Catholics weren’t allowed to consume animal products except fish during fast days so there’s this whole incredible tradition of pescatarian cookery that relies on almond milk and other meat/dairy substitutes. Typically a blancmange was a fluffy, sweetened chicken pudding for invalids and delicate constitutions (not to my taste but definitely no weirder than chicken and waffles). Here you should have made an almond milk custard and used a mild flavored roe for seasoning. You should have a quart of custard for the roe of one pike, it’s clearly written. Putting in dairy makes zero sense. Anyway, I had high hopes for your blog but maybe try reading even a single book on early modern culinary traditions before you start cooking. There is fantastic scholarship out there and it sucks that this is what’s getting noticed instead.

    • Dude, you came here from a HuffPo article. That alone discredits any ivory tower you try to cast judgement from. While I agree that there are many great resources for Early Modern cuisine, it doesn’t mean these ladies can’t have their fun. It’s a blog, not a scholastic journal. Calm your tits and either take it for what it is or move one. No reason to be so judgmental.

    • OK, wow. I was one of the people who offered what I hope was helpful criticism, being a culinarian with some education in medieval and early modern cookery. But you’re just being a jerk here. There’s no reason to be that snippy and personal.

    • I thought this article was a lovely blend of scholarly investigation and modern humor. But, I do *have* a sense of humor. I thought your comment read like the self-righteous tirade of a recent college graduate, OR, just someone with very poor manners.

    • Internet Etiquette 101: Don’t respond with outrage and condescension when helpful education is an option.

      Wait, sorry, I made a typo:

      Etiquette 101.

      No, even that doesn’t sum it up:

      Basic human decency.

      Not everyone may have stumbled randomly across the sources you have been privileged enough to study.

    • Not really that close, actually. Gefilte fish comes out of a different culinary tradition, that of skinning an animal, deboning it, making a hash or savory pudding of its flesh, and then stuffing the results back in the skin so as to serve it looking like a whole carcass. That’s why it’s referred to as “gefilte”, or “stuffed”. Here is a relevant recipe from Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin (c. 1553), so you can compare for yourself:
      171 Stuffed pike
      “Stuffed pike is made like so: Cut the pike open a little along the side, put a knife into it and cut out the large bones at the neck and peel the skin off of the pike, so that the skin remains whole. Then take the pike and remove the bones, chop the flesh, put milk into it and carp blood, and season it and stuff it again into the skin, yet the head and tail remain on the skin. Do not oversalt it and sew it closed again with coarse silk and roast it on a grill. And when it is roasted, then draw the string out again. ”
      http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Sabrina_Welserin.html
      I think it’s wise to put our modern understandings of food aside and try to see these early modern recipes in their proper contexts. Hope this helps!

      • That link is really interesting.

        I am an amateur fisherman, but this year’s winter was very harsh. Of the large fish, mostly carp seem to have survived, so I have tried cooking some up with the knowledge that traditionally in Europe (where all of the common/mirror carp here in the U.S. came from) were frequent table food.

        It’s a tough fish to prepare, especially in the waters near me. The flavor varies based on the color of the flesh which ranges from white to a deep red (the deep red tasting the worst, but often making up a sizable portion of the meat).

        The recipes suggest that:

        A. Americans are just picky when it comes to flavor and bones (likely)
        B. Water quality is a big issue in flavor as well (also likely, as the rivers here haven’t recovered yet from the 20th century abuse)
        C. Both (perhaps the best option)

      • Traditionally in the parts of Europe where “gefilte fish” was eaten, carp was considered poor people’s food. The best gefilte fish was made from a combination of whitefish and pike. I hope you found a way to prepare your carp to your liking!

  11. I do remember seeing a historical documentary on cooking a while back wherein they explained that the early use of the word “custard” was not the pudding-like custard we think of today inside of our Bismarks from Dunkin’ Donuts. A custard was a crustless pie, like a pumpkin pie. Firm and sliceable. So, the suggestions above about making an almond milk seem more accurate. Not that I believe anyone will ever try this recipe again!

    • Pumpkin pie is a custard by modern definitions, too. A custard is a dairy or dairy-substitute thickened by egg proteins, and possibly starches. There are a lot of modern custards that are not like starch-thickened puddings.

    • Just looked up “custard” on Online Etymology:

      “mid-14c., “meat or fruit pie,” crustade, from Middle French croustade (Modern French coutarde), from Old Provençal croustado “fruit tart,” literally “something covered with crust,” from crosta “crust,” from Latin crusta (see crust (n.)). Modern meaning is c.1600. Spelling change perhaps by influence of mustard.”

      So this dish turned out roughly the way it may have been intended… Can’t say the same about the ingredient list, but. Did they have April Fool’s Day back then?

      Gordon.

  12. Pike roe would definitely be milder and smaller — but not easy to come by. A possible substitute, that is sometimes available in the Spring, is flounder roe. It’s very mild, small and wouldn’t add any off-putting color (it’s white).

    I completely agree about others’ comments about preparing the almond milk.

    Still, I suspect this will never make a dish to please modern palates!

  13. If you dont do what the recipe says, you arent going to make the dish the recipe intended. If you dont do this and then have to do that, then you are getting even further from the writer’s intention. And if you have started from the point of expecting something horrible, then your decisions will tend to reinforce this. When i read the original, i am seeing a thick sweetish soup or spoonable food, with a mild umami addition of fresh roe. Odd, and maybe i wouldnt want seconds, but not horrible.

    This recipe, with ground almonds and dates, sounds older than 18th C. It sounds like a carryover from the earliest cookery books, when middle eastern recipes and ingredients followed the crusaders home, and almonds and almond milk were commonly used in fasting periods to add nutrition and bulk or substitute for cows milk. The sugar and mace on top sound like elizabethan or Rennaisance additions, when topping things this way was an extravagance.

    If you dont know what cookery terms mean, well, given your career choice, it seems odd you would just plow through it obliviously rather than researching it. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, by Terrance Scully defines a lot of cookery terms, that would still have relevance for you, especially if you compare modern meanings of the same word. There are also already numerable early cookery blogs and historic cookery hobbyists and experts you could turn to.

    • You need to back off, too. Yes, there is a specific art to redacting recipes that do not read like ours, and yes, it does require quite a bit of knowledge of both modern and period cookery to do well. But cooking is NOT a professional calling for these women, it is a small side-project, intended to highlight the archives they have. But you had to get personal and rude about it.

      To Marissa and Alyssa: As I’ve said, I’m a culinarian (as in, have a culinary degree), with some experience in early modern, renaissance and medieval cookery, and if you’d like to discuss any recipe with me before trying it, you can reach me at madgastronomer at gmail.com.

  14. Actually, before we get too far out on the limb of “gee this is just too weird to resemble anything suitable for modern palates,” I would like to report that I actually was served something not too far off in nature from the idea of a fish-flavored, or fish-enhanced, custard. In England. As part of an appetizer assortment. In the dining room of Claridge’s for Sunday lunch. It was a sort of square of firm custard with a topping of fine-textured flaked/creamed fish. Upon eating it, the texture was custardy, but the flavor was fishy. My son, who was 8 at the time, burst into tears when he tried it, crying out, “That’s fish!” in a shocked and hurt tone that brought waiters running to assist. I thought it was yucky. But there it was. This occurred, in fact, in springtime, so perhaps a seasonal “delicacy.” I can easily imagine the same dish as a custard with mild roe, either suspended in it or floating on top. I do think it quite clear that the recipe here was describing preparation of almond milk, sweetened with dates, and meant to be strained before being made into a custard. And the date/almond thing suggests it might even have derived from a Middle Eastern or Spanish flan, which also is sometimes made savory.

    • The seasonal aspects of food preparation are really important in these household manuscripts. We’re going to dive into related topics soon with some posts on preserving.

  15. I came from HuffPo as well, we are not all here to jump down your throat, I promise 🙂 I have a completely different interpretation of the recipe based on something very important from the recipe – it doesn’t say an AMOUNT of “row of pike”. Therefore, what if it isn’t an ingredient?

    I googled “row of pike” and found that it’s a battle term that means have the men holding pikes (long spears) stand right in the middle. I think “put in the Row of a Pike 4 dates cut” means cut up 4 dates and put them RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of the custard. Also, it doesn’t say “ROE”. I assume people back then knew the word roe, and would use it.

    Therefore I think this collected recipe is someone’s recipe whose title is an inside joke, how the cut dates look like soldiers in battle formation, and ‘row of pike’ is a play on ‘roe of pike’, and therefore FISH Custard is the punchline. And you’d have a delicious eggy custard with cooked dates in the middle 🙂

  16. I do not doubt these ladies have nothing but the best intentions for their amateur work in historical recipe testing… However, for those of us who are trained culinary professionals, and those of us who did study historical principles & techniques of ‘cookery’ may beg to offer a different view-point… Fish Custard or also called “Fysshe Pye” Is a fasting dish (no meat no dairy). The hand writing looks to date to before 1700 (it has many ‘Elizabethan’ flourishes to it) . I also take to reading this starts with a quick ‘almond milk’ to form a custard base.{Eggs were okay- due to it not being an animal but an “undeveloped foetus”. But eating beavers & ducks were okay too– as they spent life in water.WTF} Reading the rest of the recipes in the same hand on the page, the context would lend itself to possibly being a dessert and the ‘Row of Pike’ 4 dates could easily be a ‘sotlety’ or ‘subtlety’ (a play on words–having food look like one thing and taste like something else.) But if we do read it to be a fish based dish–it’s very hard for modern pallets (especially Western/European ones) to really dig the savory/sweet interplay. Wit to that, sugar as we know it (fine granulated white stuff) what not available– it was darker, coarser, & noticeably *less* sweet that we would like. Think natural barley sugar. As the testers are also American (?) you may have used a sweeter softer Medjool date, then what was commonly available (given dates were rare treats, labor intensive to grow & such). Just thoughts…best dishes.

    • Thank you for enriching the conversation with this additional information. We used raw cane sugar and Medjool dates because they were available in our local supermarket.

  17. Dear Cooking in the Archives — Can I politely suggest that before you try cooking anything from a single manuscript source it’s very, very helpful to search around for similar recipes in old cookbooks — certainly older than this manuscript. “Fish Custard” is a latter-day survival of something that has many parallels in medieval and Renaissance cookbooks. It goes back to some of the almond-based pre-Reformation Lenten dishes made without dairy products or meat. Or often, eggs — depending on how the Church was interpreting Lenten restrictions in your neck of the woods. Do some poking around in early cookbooks, and I think you’ll find enlightenment. One very close parallel is “To make a Custard without Eggs” in Robert May’s seventeenth-century masterwork The Accomplisht Cook. Take a look — it probably will give you more clues as to the desired effect. Presumably your manuscript writer wasn’t bound by any anti-egg strictures, so felt free to add egg yolks for extra richness.

    • We have been reading around in early printed and manuscript cookbooks as well as important secondary resources produced by generations of food historians. But this is a new endeavor for both of us: We started working on this project in June 2014. We are thankful that you and other readers with more experience have offered such helpful suggestions.

  18. As several readers have pointed out – some a bit briskly, I thought – almond milk is a very medieval ingredient, preferred to cow’s milk for custards because it didn’t spoil so quickly, had wonderful thickening properties and could be used throughout Lent . They are undoubtedly correct that your recipe is based on a very old tradition. Jane Grigson’s English Food, an exhaustive collection of traditional English recipes, includes a recipe for “Creamed Roe Tart” that is not dissimilar to your recipe, though it uses eggs and sour cream for thickening. The poached roes are food-processed or pushed through a strainer, and then folded in. Here’s a photo on Nigel Slater’s blog, in which he attempts to cook every one of Grigson’s recipes! :http://neilcooksgrigson.blogspot.com/2013/03/372-creamed-roe-tart.html.

    Fish roes in almond milk would have been a perfect Lenten meal at a time when meat, milk and eggs were forbidden. I’ve recently seen a wonderful recipe, from a medieval Dutch cookbook, in which almond milk is used to produce faux eggs at Easter: http://www.coquinaria.nl/english/recipes/12.2ahistrecipe.html. The blogger explains that sometimes the joke eggs were made from pike roe, a form of egg that was permitted as it came from fish. Almond milk and roe together, as in your recipe, would have produced a rich, creamy texture. Yes, the almond milk would have been strained through a very fine sieve or a fine cloth; the cloth would finally have been twisted and squeezed, to produce maximum thickening.

    FWIW, Egg Custard w Salmon Roe is sometimes on the menu at the Japanese restaurant in the M Hotel in Singapore. Different tradition, of course, but very elegant. The roe is left whole and is visible suspended in the custard.

  19. Lovely blog – looks like you’re having fun and making the most of archives, even when the results aren’t that familiar/appetizing!

    My first thought for this was of French quenelles – a large dumpling made from fish mousse (usually pike) which is poached and then baked with sauce. Sometimes, it contains nuts and it’s often flavoured with nutmeg (close-ish to mace). This NYT article has a brief explanation of how they’re made: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/08/04/travel/fare-of-the-country-delicate-pike-quenelles-a-lyons-tradition.html

  20. Wonderful site and a great look into your archive materials! I also enjoyed the many informative comments from fellow readers and hope you’ll take with a grain of salt comments from pedants who may criticize you for not being exhaustive experts. I’m very happy and interested to see how two modern people attempt to approach these recipes whose instructions are comparatively vague to ones we commonly see. Although these too are difficult for some people: my really very intelligent engineer husband once utterly failed in preparing one of those boxed pudding-pie desserts. Somehow. The box had a very clear list of ingredients and a set of directions with only three steps. The two packets of “crust” and “pudding” ingredients inside the box were numbered AND color coded, corresponding to those directions. And somehow he decided to dump the contents of both packets and the butter and milk called for in the directions into one big bowl, stir, and only then looked up confusedly mumbling to himself “Well this doesn’t seem right…How does it make the crust?”

  21. This is a wonderful site that I was very much enjoying! That is until some of the more “educated” individuals felt the need to impart to the masses their vast knowledge. Thereby sucking all the joy out the experience and leaving us with an even worse taste in our mouths than apparently the fish custard did. This blog to my knowledge is a wonderful exploration of cooking historical food in today’s world. The authors are kind enough to share their experiences with us in this blog and we should be gracious to them for their time and efforts. Helpful, were and if appropriate, but never condescending.

    As a professional classical musician I’m often asked by friends what books or classes they can take to better appreciate music. My reply is always the same. Study the art and architecture of the time period of the music your interested in. Just enjoy the music. Because the more you are “educated” about it, the less you are likely to be able to just enjoy it!

  22. Just stumbled across this blog, and will have to read further, but wanted to comment on this recipe. I’m not an authority on anything, but as a wannabe-chef, lemme just throw out a couple suggestions:

    If an old-school recipe calls for the yolks of 4 eggs, well… go ahead & use ’em, hey? I understand that egg yolks are sometimes demonized these days [unnecessarily, IMO], but while 4 yolks is about the same volume of egg product as 2 whole + 1 yolk, they won’t act the same when you cook with ’em.

    Also, you mentioned “Straining, but that would have removed all of the almonds and dates, which seemed counterproductive.” Agreed, if you follow our current method of “straining” [which is what we do with “maccarony,” yes?]. What if the writer of the recipe meant something closer to forcing the mixture through a strainer… like putting it through a modern-day food mill [or, your food processor idea might have worked just fine].

    Lastly, “One pound of Almons beat them small, in the beating put in the Row of a Pike.” I do think roe is the ingredient they’re looking for. I also think they may be trying to pound out a pound of almonds into something like chunky peanut butter [the better to put thru the strainer]. While you’re beating the almonds in your mortal & pestle, put in the roe. That’d kinda be the opposite of folding them in gently, hey? 😉

    I hope this was read as “Helpful Suggestions” [I don’t give advice, I give suggestions…], or at worst, “Constructive Criticism.” And please realize, any food for thought I serve up is sprinkled lightly with the zest of one gentle sarcasm.

  23. This sounds absolutely horrible. I imagine you’ve seen The Supersizers, this reminds me of something they would have had to eat 🙂
    I LOVE your project though! So interesting.

  24. I googled pike eggs and custard and came across two sources in the first page with similar recipes, Cariadoc, and the Neapolitan Recipe Collection. Which also included other recipes that had fish, sugar and rose water as key ingredients. Revolting to my palate, but one was entitled Papal Torte. That said, yes, salmon roe are much too fishy, pike roe in early spring are said to be more delicate, but the same is said of shad roe, which I love, but cooked with bacon, not sugar. I wouldn’t blame you if you decided “never again” and move on.

  25. Having tried both salmon roe and pike roe, I can say that while salmon roe has a very harsh fishy/salty flavor to me that makes it unattractive (I really don’t like it), pike roe is much smaller, milder, has a smooth pleasant flavor and is nicely golden in color. Maybe using pike would make it not so horrible? Can be found in Eastern European food stores – if they don’t have it, can probably request it.

  26. Pingback: Ffish Custard | mvincelli

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  28. Pingback: Cooking in the Archives: Updating Early Modern Recipes (1600-1800) in a Modern Kitchen | La Cocina Histórica

  29. Ha ha ha! I love this: “Some recipes should stay in the archives.”

    This recipe doesn’t sound like one I’ll try with my kids (unlike carrot pudding, which we love). I must’ve missed it when you blogged about it last year. I searched your blog for it when I came across the reference to “fish custard” in your most recent post.

  30. Pingback: Solid Sillibubs | Cooking in the Archives

  31. Pingback: To presarue Aprecokes | Cooking in the Archives

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