Dinner at the time of Rubens: salmon fish pie and spinach

Main course


Salmon fish pies
Small round pies, filled with salmon, pear, currants, ginger, saffron, pepper, butter and egg. 

Round salmon pies (Battus Cocboeck, 1593, nr. 192)
Take salmon and peeled cooking pears. Mince well and add: blue raisins, currants, sugar, ginger, salt, saffron and eggs. Mix well together. Make fine pastry and make it into round pies. Put the filling on it, decorate the cover and bake them in the oven or a ‘Dutch oven’ [a kind of firepan with fire on the cover], but put baking paper on the bottom, before baking them. Serve the pies. When done, you can add some butter.

Ingredients (serves 4)
About 21 oz / 1,3 lbs ready made short crust pastry (two parts of plain flour, 1 part of butter, egg, cold water)
16 oz fresh salmon fillet
4 cooking pears
4 oz currants
4 teaspoons ground ginger
saffron powder (optional: to obtain a yellow color)
5 oz butter
5 eggs
salt and pepper
edible flower, for instance violets

Cut the pears in four parts, peel the pears and remove the cores.
Heat water and boil the pears in a hour until soft. Place the currants in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Allow them to boil for 1 minute and turn off the heat. Let the currants stand for 5 minutes and drain. Pat them dry with paper towels.
Roll out the pastry and using a 10cm / 4 inch plain cutter or small saucer cut out 4 rounds, re-rolling the dough as necessary. Cut another four rounds of about 12 cm / 5 inch.
Mince or grind the fish in a processor with the pear, ginger, butter, 4 eggs and saffron (if desired) until you have a coarse paste. Add the currants and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 200oC / 400oF, Gas Mark 6.
Lay 4 of the smallest pastry rounds on lightly greased baking sheets. Beat egg for decoration. Wet the edges with egg. Divide the fish mixture between the pastry rounds. Cover with the larger rounds, press the edges with the prongs of a fork. Cut a cross on the top of each and glaze all over well with the rest of the egg.
Bake the pies first for 15 minutes until browned, then lower the temperature to 190oC / 375oF, Gas Mark 5 for another 10 or 15 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with an edible flower, if desired, for example a violet.

Braised spinach
Large leaf spinach, braised with apple, wine, vinegar, sugar, ginger and butter.

How to stew spinach (Carolus Battus Cocboeck, 1593, nr. 205)
Take spinach and cook, until done. Strain. Take peeled apples. Mince well with the spinach. Simmer with wine and verjuice [= sour juice of unripe grapes], sugar, ginger and butter. Simmer until done. Serve on saucers and sprinkle with ginger. Serve the dish. If desired, you can make them into round pies or cookies, to be fried in butter.

Braised spinach: ingredients
2 lbs large leaf spinach
1 tablespoon ground ginger
7 fl oz dry white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (optional)
4 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
3 oz butter
2 Bramley apples (renet apple)

Cut the apples in four parts, peel them en remove the cores. 
Remove the stems from the leaves of spinach. Wash the leaves. Boil spinach down with apple, wine, vinegar, sugar, ginger and butter. Serve on saucers.

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