NZ Woman's Weekly

Nana’s retro recipe’s: On the plain

Fish Baked in custard
  • Meal Type

  • Total time

    45 minutes
  • Courses


In the old days, cooking for invalids was taken seriously, with most cookbooks devoting a chapter to those of an unwell disposition. These days, when people get ill they tend to keep going, barely pausing long enough in bed to be classed as an “invalid”. We try to just “soldier on” because we either have no choice or feel it is indulgent to lie in bed.

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (first published in 1859) set out 13 strict rules around cooking for invalids, including “never serve beef tea or broth with the smallest particle of fat or grease on the surface” and “never leave food about a sick room”.

I’m all for a return to invalid cooking. In a world where recipes need to involve the latest must-have ingredients, it can be remarkably restoring to indulge in a bland diet of plain cooking. I found this dish in a 1948 book called Recipes and Household Hints, issued with the compliments of Hawkins Ltd, High Street, Rangiora.

I suggested it to my husband for dinner, but he was having none of it. The combination of custard and  sh was too much, so I took it around to a friend’s place for lunch. She sampled it, then suggested a few herbs or something to perk it up. I loved the soft custard and delicate fish together. I’ll be making it again next time someone in my house is sick – apart from my husband.

(Good for invalids)

  • 500g  fish (terakihi or snapper is good)
  • Seasoning
  • Grated rind of half a lemon
  • 1 small onion,  finely chopped
  • 2 small eggs
  • 2 tbsp  our
  • 300ml fresh milk

1. Wipe your  fish fillets clean and remove any black skin. Lay the fish in a greased and shallow baking dish and sprinkle with salt, a little white pepper, the grated rind and the onion.

2. Then, break eggs in a basin, add the  our and a light seasoning of salt and pepper. Beat until smooth and add the milk. Pour this custard over the  fish. Stand the dish in a tin containing some water and bake in a moderate oven until the custard is lightly set and browned (about 45 minutes).

3. It improves the dish if the fish is basted once or twice during the first part of the cooking. Potato chips or some mashed potatoes make it a real delicacy when serving.

Do you have a Nana recipe you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear about it. Email me at: wendyl.nissen@nzww. or write to Nana’s Pantry, NZWW, PO Box 90119, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142

Issue 1541

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