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Historical recipe: Fake fish – a medieval apple pie for Lent

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 treat as virtuous as it is delicious

Published: October 29, 2021 at 4:02 pm
  • Preparation and cooking time
    • Cook:
  • Difficulty 3/10

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
  • 40g Ground almonds
  • 300ml Water
  • 125g Olive oil
  • 1tsp Salt
  • Saffron (optional)
  • Whole/sliced almonds, to make the scales of the fish

For the filling:

  • 3 Apples
  • 90g Cane sugar
  • 1tsp Ginger
  • ½tsp Cinnamon
  • ½tsp Saffron
  • 2 Gingerbread slices (lightly toasted and crumbled) or 40g ground almonds


For the dough:

  • STEP 1

    Mix all the ingredients for the dough 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.

  • STEP 2

    Add the ingredients for the filling into a blender and blend, or mash by hand using a potato masher.

  • STEP 3

    Preheat the oven to 200°C. Divide the pastry in two. Roll out the first part and cut out an oval shape.

  • STEP 4

    Place the fish on a baking tray with toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on the dough.

  • STEP 5

    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.

  • STEP 6

    Cut out an eye hole and a hole near where the tail will go. Add fins, gills, scales. Bake for 45mins.

Recipe courtesy of Coquinaria

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

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