Sam’s historical recipe corner: Fake fish

We take a step back in time and recreate some historical recipes for you to try at home...

In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates fake fish - a medieval apple pie for Lent.

In the Middle Ages, people were instructed not to eat meat during Lent. Yet the ban didn’t apply to fish – in fact, Dutch gourmets enjoyed serving up ‘fish’ dishes so much that they devised this fish-shaped apple pie. With no animal products, it’s every bit as virtuous as it is delicious.


For the dough:

  • 500g flour
  • 125g oil (I used olive oil)
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 300ml water
  • 1tsp salt
  • Saffron (optional)
  • Whole/sliced almonds to make scales

For the filling:

  • 3 apples, chopped
  • 90g cane sugar
  • 1tsp ginger
  • ½tsp cinnamon
  • ½tsp saffron
  • 2 slices gingerbread, lightly toasted and crumbled, or 40 ground almonds


For the dough: Mix all the ingredients together, adding more liquid/flour if required, and knead it all until it’s reasonably smooth. Put the dough in the fridge for an hour before you need to use it.

For the filling: Add the ingredients into a blender or mash by hand using a potato masher.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Divide the pastry in two. Roll out the first part and cut out an oval shape. Place the fish on a baking tray with toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on the dough. Put the apple filling on to the oval, roll and cut out a second oval and place over the filling, pressing the top layer to the bottom. Cut out an eye hole and a hole near where the tail will go. Add fins, gills, scales. Bake for 45mins.

Difficulty: 3/10

Time: 90 mins

Recipe courtesy of Coquinaria

This article was first published in the March 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine.

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