Here’s another in my series of period recipes great for the modern table. Historically, when an animal, fowl, or fish was killed, no part of it went to waste. This recipe is a great example of that practice. Luce refers to pike, and the parts that were used were referred to as “the womb”, meaning probably most of the innards except for the digestive tract. I know, not very appealing to the modern palate. This recipe for Luce Wafers, or Luce Waffres, comes from Harleian Manuscript number 279, from the 15th century. Here is the original text:
Waffres. Take þe Wombe of A luce, & seþe here wyl, & do it on a morter, & tender cheese þer-to, grynde hem y-fere; þan take flowre an whyte of Eyroun & bete to-gedere, þen take Sugre an pouder of Gyngere, & do al to-gerderys, & loke þat þin Eyroun ben hote, & ley þer-on of þin paste, & þan make þin waffrys, & serue yn.
When you finish scratching your head, here is my interpretation for the modern table. You will note that I do not use fish “wombes”, but minced fish.
1 lb. mild fish, such as cod
1/3 cup flour
2 eggs. seperated
2 tbsp. sugar
1 cup finely grated cheese, such as cheddar, or if you want something milder, a gruyere
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
Here are the ingredients. Bake, steam, poach, or roast the fish until you can flake it with a fork. Cool until easy to handle, then mInce fine. Stir dry ingredients (flour, salt, ginger, sugar) together, then toss with fish. Add cheese and beaten egg yolks, stirring to coat. Now whip the egg whites until stiff. Add them to the fish mixture, 1/3 at a time, folding together carefully each time. The whipped egg whites will lighten up the mixture, and cause it to puff a bit when cooked. Below is a picture of the process of folding the egg whites into the mixture.
Now you’re going to make the mixture into patties. I use a hamburger press for this, lining it with plastic wrap and spooning it in untl it’s level. Then turn it out onto a pan lined with plastic wrap. This amount should make three patties. You’re then going to FREEZE IT! Yup. That’s right. You see, the fish is already cooked, so you don’t have to worry about not getting done. Freezing the patties will make them ever so much easier for the next step. Below is a picture of the patties ready to go into the freezer.
When the patties are firm to the touch, heat about an inch of oil on the stove over medium high heat. You’re going to want to monitor the frying, as there is cheese involved. Be sure the first patty is well started before you add the second one, as they are going to cool the oil when they’re first placed in it. Better yet, fry them one at a time. They don’t take long. When one side is lightly browned, carefully turn over. Check often, as they will brown fast. Remove from the oil, drain on paper towels, and enjoy. Thiis recipe serves 3.
These are a great way to get kids to eat fish. If you feel you really need to have a condiment, try adding capers and just a touch of lime juice to some mayonaise.
Now allow me to digress for a bit and get on my soapbox. There is a letter you wll not recognise in the above recipe. It resembles the letter “p”. In some manuscripts it is actually written as an upside down “y”. This letter is called a thorn, and it is pronounced as a “TH” sound. The letter has dissappeared from our modern alphabet, but some lazy calligraphers have looked at it in its upside down “y” form, and assumed it was just a “y”. Here is where you get all your ‘Ye Olde Corner Anything”.This is just one of those mis-conceptions and misusages that just grates my bacon. OK, off my soapbox.
See you next time!