Long Cod or Golden Ling

Salted ling was the great standby of medieval and Tudor households on days when meat was not allowed. It is a large fish, longer from head to tail than the species we call cod, but comes from the same family.

The Babees Book (a late-fifteenth-century manuscript by an unknown author) says: “Ling perhaps looks for great extolling being counted beefe of the sea; and standing every fish day at my Lord Mayor’s table; yet it is nothing but long cod. When it is salted it is called Ling ... the longer it lyeth in the brine, the better it is; waxing in the end as yellow as a gold noble.”

The following is a nineteenth-century recipe which comes straight from several medieval descriptions of dishes of salted ling, but which uses fresh fish rubbed with salt. Cod replaces ling, as they are indistinguishable and the name ling is rarely, if ever, used today. The sauce should be bright gold, slightly thickened by the oatmeal and sweetened by the carrots. It is a distinguished fish dish, very good with rice or boiled potatoes.

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Ingredients

  • 6 cod steaks, each about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick
  • ½ lb (240 g) fish trimmings
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron
  • 3 large onions, very finely chopped
  • ½ stick (60 g) butter
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1⅓ cups (120 g) fine oatmeal
  • 1 lb (½ kg) carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs or fresh parsley, thyme, chives and tarragon very finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Boil the fish trimmings and the saffron in cups (9 dl) of salted water for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, rub the cod steaks with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a little of the onion on each cut side and press it into the fish. Dip all sides of each cod steak in the oatmeal. Fry the fish in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of the butter and the cooking oil until golden brown.

Lift the fish steaks on to a shallow fireproof dish. Fry the remaining onions and the carrots in the rest of the butter until a light golden colour. Spoon the onions and carrots between and over the cod steaks, add the herbs and season well. Strain the golden fish stock and pour it over the fish. It should almost cover the steaks. Cover the dish closely with foil and bake in the oven at 350°F (180°C, Gas Mark 4) for 35 minutes.

Uncover the dish and bake for a further 10 minutes for the top to dry and crisp a little.

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