Some of us fear cooking fish. I know that I do. I get all hung up on finding the right fish. I'm always wondering about freshness - the local mega mart fish counter scares me a little, and the prices at the fancy mega mart make me anxious. If I screw it up by over cooking or by letting all the skin stick to the pan I'll be bummed considering the price per pound. Now, Glasgow is a major port town, and the River Clyde is still full of salmon and trout, so I can only imagine how abundant and economical fish was in the 1880s. Not that any self respecting house keeper would want to mess up dinner back then either. But, with Mrs. Black's help, you can't fail, right?
In her words: "Get about 1 1/2 lbs. of fish, either three small ones or a large one that can be cut in three pieces. Scrape and wash them very carefully, cutting off the fins and taking out the eyes and dry them in a cloth. Place them in a pie-dish. Mix in a bowl 1 dessert-spoonful of flour, 1 teaspoonful of butter melted, 1 egg well beaten, 1 teacupful of milk, a little pepper and salt; pour all this over the fish in the pie-dish, and put it in the oven for half an hour, or on a toaster in front of the fire for the same length of time. Both the fish and the custard will be found delightful."
Clearly, the Glaswegian housewife of the 1880s had bigger problems than whether or not her fish was sustainably harvested. She was too busy taking out eyes and cutting off fins! And while fish and milk together isn't a dish you see regularly on the menu, how often have you had lox and cream cheese without batting an eye? Or seen jars of herring in cream sauce at Ikea? I'm curious about the low volume of poaching liquid. A nice thick custard solidifying around the fishies. Yummy... Perhaps a little dill, parsley, or lemon? With these additions, I am sure it could be quite delightful. Unusual, yes, but delightful under the right circumstances perhaps. I may have to spring this on on the husband someday soon, using a 350F degree oven instead of an open fire (some instructions are meant to be updated). I'll let you know how that goes.