Ffish Custard?

September 19, 2014

A single bright orange salmon roe doesn’t amount to much. But when it bursts into the mouth it dissolves into something primal – both sweet and salty – the taste of life itself. 

But imagine if the roe stayed intact. Imagine that you could barely chew it. Now imagine that chewy rubber married to dates, almond meal, milk and rosewater. If your imagination can stretch that far, you're eating ffish custard. 

I can’t remember how I came across Rare Cooking, a blog that recently featured this dish. Dreamed up by two PHD students with an interest in archival oddities, Rare Cooking chronicles their attempt to translate early American recipes into something that might actually taste good. Recently, they found a recipe for something called ffish custard, likely at least two hundred years old, and decided to whip up a batch. 

There’s a critical humility in their approach: if an old dish sounds terrible, perhaps  we’re wrong.  Is there another reason why we no longer eat it? Can early American cooking teach us "new" flavors?

There’s only one way to find out: make the dish. In the case of ffish custard this required a bit of guesswork. The recipe called for a pound of almonds, the roe of a pike, dates, milk and rose water. That’s it: mix it together, strain it, and pop it into the oven. 

To impressive result, Rare Cooking decided against the straining step. Check out their result (and the comments) here


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  • Cowgirlcook says:

    Hiya Ruth. I don’t know if I’ll be making this ffish custard any time soon, BUT I just got my order of Piri Piri sauce in the mail from mazi per your recommendation and it has changed my life!! Seriously, my family and I have plowed through a bottle in 3 days. It’s extraordinary. Thank you for telling the rest of us about it. I’ve been putting it on everything from brussels sprouts to scalloped potatoes to eggs to burgers to chicken. God it’s good.

  • Tessyukim says:

    Hi Ruth, I read your book – Delicious and I loved it. I even tried to make the gingerbread with the recipe at the end of the book but … the batter was too much for the 6-cup bundt pan. I ended up with a smoky and messy oven. Well I did try it again with a 10-cup bundt pan and it was delicious! Do you think I missed something?