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.
Boil the fish trimmings and the saffron in
Meanwhile, rub the cod steaks with salt and pepper. Sprinkle
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
Uncover the dish and bake for a further 10 minutes for the top to dry and crisp
©1980 The Estate of Elizabeth Ayrton