An Excellent Way of Dressing Fish – Week 5 2021


Welcome to fish week! Cook Off veterans know that the season wouldn’t be complete without a fish dish. And while it may be difficult to top the 2017 sleeper hit, cod with apples and onions, we think this week’s recipe might just give it a run for the money.

It’s a simple dish that uses a largely forgotten technique called smoring in which small quantities of meat or fish were placed in an earthenware vessel, along with butter, herbs and spices. Next, a lid was sealed in place with a strip of pastry, and the whole vessel immersed in a cauldron of boiling water. We like to think of it as the 17th century version of sous vide.

Speaking of Cauldrons…

If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Lori and Krista in the Colony’s 17th century kitchen, you’ve probably seen the enormous, three-legged iron pot sitting beside the hearth. It’s a hernia-inducing beast and visitors often ask if we plan on feeding a small army. In reality, giant pots or cauldrons were rarely used to cook giant amounts of a single dish. Instead, they were filled with water and used to cook a whole range of foods at the same time (see image below). Pure genius!

From Food in England by Dorothy Hartley

If you don’t have a giant iron pot (or an open fire to put it on) in your kitchen, don’t worry. As always, we’ve got a couple of work arounds for you.

This Week’s Recipe

The original version of this week’s recipe comes (once again!) from The Compleat Cook, Expertly Prescribing The Most Ready Wayes, Whether Italian, Spanish Or French, For Dressing Of Flesh And Fish, Ordering Of Sauces Or Making Of Pastry, published in 1658. It goes like this:

An Excellent Way of Dressing Fish

Take a piece of fresh Salmon, and wash it clean in a little Vinegar and Water, and let it lye a while in it, in a great Pipkin with a cover, and put to it six spoonfuls of Water and four of Vinegar, as much of white wine, a good deale of Salt, a bundle of sweet Herbs, a little whole Spice, a few Cloves, a little stick of Cinamon, a little Mace, take up all these in a Pipkin close, and set in a Kettle of seething Water and there let it stew three hours, You may doe Carps, Eeles, Trouts, &c. this way, alter the taste to your mind.

Our modern interpretation is courtesy of Cook Off Insider Marianne Wong, with additions from Elizabeth Slucas (we LOVE you guy!). As the original recipe notes, feel free to substitute any fish you please and adjust the seasonings “to your mind”. Considering the crazy amount of squid in the waters off Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula these days, I’m seriously thinking of giving them a go.



Marianne loved the results, reporting the fish “remained nice and plump and juicy”. Cook Off insider Elizabeth Slucas agreed saying “I didn’t get to try the cod, as my roommate ate the whole piece while I was walking my dog. She said it was delicious and she’d like fish made this way again.” Cheeky monkey 😉

Remember, add a photo of your excellently dressed fish to the comments thread of the recipe post on the Colony of Avalon’s Facebook page, and you’ll be automatically entered to our weekly and grand prize draws. Deadline is 11:59 pm, Sunday, August 8, 2021. Up for grabs this week? A $50 gift certificate to Verdant Tea, suppliers of hand-picked and hand-finished tea purchased directly from small growers.