Sunday, May 15, 2011

How to Make a Pottage of Fish

NOTE: While fish dishes are rarely wildly popular at SCA feasts, and while the combination of flavors here may seem particularly unfamiliar to the modern palate, this was by far the most enjoyed dish at the test feast. Knowing that, I made quite a lot of it for the actual feast, and we still wound up with the servers scraping the last bits from the bottom of the pot for folks who wanted third helpings.

  • 1 pound of tilapia filets, cut in 1" cubes
  • 1 Large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • The white and pale green portions of one head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Large egg
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Approximately 3 T vegetable oil
  • salt to taste, but perhaps a bit more than you would think
  • black pepper to taste

  1. In a medium-large pot, saute onions in oil until they become translucent
  2. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more
  3. Add fish and cook until somewhat whitened on the outside, perhaps 3-4 minutes
  4. Add all other ingredients and stir vigorously
  5. Turn heat down low and cook for an hour or two, stirring occasionally
Serves 8ish. This multiplies up quite well for large batches.

The Prodromic Poems, translated by Henry Marks in Byzantine Cuisine
I will tell you the tale of the hotpot. Take the hearts of four snow-white cabbages, then the belly of a pig and a piece of the neck, and a fine swordfish head, the best pieces of the carp, from the large blue fish, four pieces, very thin, but oversalted, from the good bluefish, twenty pieces, from the sturgeon, the loin, and fourteen eggs in addition, a piece of Cretan cheese; about twelve buckets of soft curds, a quarter part from mountain cheese, a liter of the best oil and a handful of pepper, twelve whole cloves of garlic as well and fourteen onions, twenty mackerels fresh and sixteen in brine
I have pared down the varieties of fish for ease of preparation, and while I have attempted it with heads, etc. of the fish it does not seem to significantly impact flavor, so I have omitted it here. It should be noted both that the Prodromic Poems are fairly loose with their language, and that this translation was from Greek to English by way of French. Nonetheless, the specificity of the recipe is unusual for the period, and it does work essentially as writ.


  1. Sounds fabulous! I'm curious about your omission of pig from the redaction. Dietary restrictions? Thanks for posting!

  2. Thanks!

    I had forgotten about that omission in the time since actually doing the feast; there were a fair number of attendees who wanted non-pork options, so I skipped the presumably-delicious addition of bacon. The dish didn't need it in order to work, but I'm sure it would not be harmed by the addition.