A Boke of Gode Cookery Presents


PERIOD: England, late 15th c. | SOURCE: MS Pepys 1047 | CLASS: Authentic

DESCRIPTION: Fish cooked in ale and served with a pepper vinegar sauce.

Facsimile of receipt from the original manuscript:

Transcription of original receipt:


Take hym and slytte A litill the wombe And take owte the guttys and and seth hym in sauce of salte water and ale the sauce is pepur And vyneAger.

Modern translation:


Take him and slit a little the womb and take out the guts and boil him in sauce of salt water and ale. The sauce is pepper and vinegar.

Modern recipe:

  • 1 whole salt-water fish
  • 1 cup slightly salted water
  • 2 cups vinegar, cider or wine
The Gurnard was a salt-water fish; feel free to substitute with any convenient variety. The fish should be gutted and clean but left whole. Combine the water and vinegar; place the fish in a large baking dish and add enough of the liquid to immerse 2/3 of the fish. Place in a 375º F oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until fish is thoroughly cooked and flakes when tested with a fork - add more liquid if necessary. Remove from pan and place on a serving platter; serve the fish hot or cold with the pepper vinegar in small bowls as a dipping sauce.

Pepper Vinegar Sauce: This original medieval recipe comes from the 14th century Le Viandier de Taillevent.

165. Poivre noir: Black Pepper Sauce. Grind ginger, round pepper and burnt toast, infuse this in vinegar (var.: and a little verjuice) and boil it.

Source: Scully, Terence, ed. Le Viandier de Taillevent. An Edition of all Extant Manuscripts. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1988.

Modern recipe

  • 2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. ginger (see note)
  • 1 Tbs. pepper (see note)
  • 1-2 cups bread crumbs made from burnt toast
Bring the vinegar to a boil; reduce the heat slightly, and with a wire whisk, beat in the spices. With the whisk slowly begin to beat in the bread crumbs until you reach the thickness of sauce that you desire. Continue beating until you have a smooth consistency and the mixture has again returned to the boil. Remove from heat and serve as an accompaniment to meats and poultry.

This very tart sauce may startle a few people, but many love its sharp and unique taste. Feel free to adjust the spices to your personal taste - some may enjoy using less pepper and more ginger, etc. The sauce can be as thin as a gravy or as thick as a dip.

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