Medieval Haddock In Tasty Sauce

This is a slightly strange yet interesting dish that I’ve decided to try out. It was a fish recipe which made use of of brown ale to cook. I must say, the sauce is not for the faint-hearted, and because it recommends using brown ale, could taste slightly bitter. I would recommend using beer or cider for a slightly sweeter, more pleasant taste for the palette.

This dish is actually a selection of recipes that monks and nuns who lived in the cloister used to cook for themselves. By discipline, there wasn’t supposed to be any meat or animal flesh allowed in their diet at all, but these rigid rules were at times bent for the sick and aged, as well as the wilier ones who found the restrictions too much. What I found really interesting in this recipe then, is the fact that there was not only fish but also brown ale – reflecting the mindsets and (mis)behaviours of those who lived a holy life in the name of God.  Not that this is a very fanciful dish at all though.

For all the efforts that I made to get this dish going, I must say it’s not really worth the while and I would still prefer to have my fish grilled or baked in the oven than boiled and sauced in this manner. Still, a great attempt to understand how people might have lived and fed themselves in the past!


  • Haddock fillet: 500g, chunked
  • Butter: 25g + extra to glaze
  • Onion: 1/2, diced
  • Breadcrumb: 50g
  • Ground white pepper: a pinch
  • Brown ale (or beer or cider): 60ml


  1. Bring salted water to a boil in a shallow saucepan.
  2. Place haddock chunks into salted water, covered. Simmer for 2min.
  3. Cover pan and remove from heat. Allow fish to continue cooking in heat.
  4. Drain, reserving 200ml of salted water for cooking the sauce later.
  5. Heat butter in a separate saucepan. Fry onions till brown.
  6. Mix breadcrumbs with white pepper. Add this into saucepan.
  7. Add in brown ale and 200ml of salted water. Stir to combine.
  8. Process sauce in blender till smooth.
  9. Place fish chunks on a grilling rack. Rub with butter.
  10. Grill for 5min to glaze.
  11. Place fish on a bed of spinach. Pour blended sauce over fish to serve.


  • This recipe was kindly adapted from ‘The Medieval Cookbook’ by Maggie Black.

2 persons as side dish

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