Skate with Two Sauces

This recipe is given in a Yorkshire manuscript of the eighteenth century. Mrs Glasse in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747) gives much the same recipe, which she calls “To crimp skate”. The dish is interesting because variations of the two sauces, which are really seasoned and flavoured butters, are described both by Apicius and in several medieval manuscripts. The sauces should be served in two small bowls or dishes for each guest, as was the custom in medieval times. Cod, turbot or halibut fillets are all very good served in this way.


  • 2 lb (1 kg) skate, trimmed and trimmings reserved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 carrot, cut in two
  • Bunch of parsley, thyme and tarragon (if available)
  • Salt

Mustard Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons dry English mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¾ stick (90 g) softened butter

Anchovy Sauce

  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • ¾ stick (90 g) softened butter
  • ½ teaspoon anchovy essence
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon juice


Cut the fish into strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide and 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length.

Boil the vegetables, herbs, salt and fish trimmings in 5 cups (1.2 litres) of water for 30 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquor, discarding the fish trimmings, vegetables and herbs. Bring the liquor to the boil again and carefully lower the pieces of fish into it. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and lift out with a perforated fish slice. Serve immediately with the sauces.

To make the mustard sauce, work the mustard and turmeric into the butter and beat to a soft paste.

To make the anchovy sauce, pound and mash the anchovy fillets and then beat them into the butter with all the other ingredients.