Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - lv. Iuschelle of Fysshe.

lv. Iuschelle of Fysshe - Fish Dumplings

This unusual recipe found in  Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 by Thomas Austin  immediately caught my eye and I had to try it.  Originally I had assumed that this dish would produce results similar to Guisseƚƚ, a recipe for a savory bread dumpling, cooked in broth. I had always been a bit uncertain of that research, until I realized that the formula ofr Iuschelle of Fysshe is very similar to modern day quenelles, mixtures of meat or fish combined with breadcrumbs and cream that are usually poached.  

To follow up on the theory it became important to understand what the term Iuschelle meant. The Middle English Dictionary defines Iuschelle (jussel n. Also jus(s)elle, jushel(le & guissel.) as:
A dish made of eggs, or eggs mixed with grated bread, cooked in a seasoned broth; ~ of flesh; ~ sengle; ~ enforced, such a dish served with a sweet and spicy creamed sauce; (b) a dish made of fish roe and grated bread mixed and cooked in a fish broth; ~ of fish.

The Middle English Compendium defines frye as: 

Fri(e) - Also frī(e n.(2) Also friʒe (frye). Spawn or the young of fish; small fish

I believe that instead of the "roe" or the mass of eggs found inside a fish, this recipe is referring to the fry or newly hatched fish that no longer have an egg sac attached. I would suggest using any available smaller fish to create this recipe, or substituting roe for the fry. If you are unable to get pike, you may want to substitute cod, pollock, whiting, catfish or any other lean white fish.

.lv. Iuschelle of Fysshe.—Take fayre Frye of Pyke, and caste it raw on a morter, an caste þer-to gratid brede, an bray hem as smale as þow mayste; & ȝif it be to stondyng, caste þer-to Almaunde mylke, an bray hem to-gederys, an stere it to-gederys, & caste þer-to a littel Safroun & Salt, an whyte Sugre, an putte al in a fayre Treen bolle, & toyle*. [Twillein Douce MS. ] it to-gederys wyth þin hond, an loke þat it be noȝt to chargeaunt, but as a man may pore it out of þe bolle; and þan take a Chafoure or a panne, an caste þer-in fayre grauey of pyke or of Freysshe Samoun, y-draw þorw a straynoure, & sette[leaf 14.] it on þe fyre; þanne take fayre Percely an Sawge, an caste þer-to, an lat it boyle, an caste þer-to a lytil Safroun an Salt; and whan it hath y-boylid a whyle, stere it faste, an caste þe Stuffe þer-to, an stere it euermore; an whan alle is oute of þe bolle, caste a litil an a litil in-to þe chafoure, or þe panne; stere it soffter an sofftere, tylle it come to-gedere; þan gader it to-gederys with a ladelle or a Skymoure, softe, tille it be round to-gedere; þanne take it fro þe fyre, an sette þe vesselle on a fewe colys, an late it wexe styf be hys owne acord; þan serue forth.

55. Juschelle of Fish - Take fair fry of pike, and caste it raw on a mortar, and cast there-to grated bread, and bray them as small as you may; and if it be to standing (thick), caste there-to almond milk, and bray them together; and stir it together, and caste there-to a little saffron and salt, and white sugar, and put all in a fair tureen bowl and stir it together with your hand, and look that it be not to thick, but as a man may pour it out of the bowl; and then take a chafing dish or a pan, and caste there-in fair gravy of pike, or of fresh salmon, drawn through a strainer and set it on the fire, then take fair parsley and sage, and caste there-to, and let it boil, and cast there-to a little saffron and salt, and when it has boiled a while, stir it fast, and cast the stuff there-to and stir it evermore; an when all is out of the bowl, cast a little and a little in to the chafing-dish or the pan; stir it softer and softer, till it come together; then gather it to together with a ladle or a skimmer, soft, till it be round together; then take it from the fire, and set the vessel on a few coals, and let it wax stiff be his own accord; then serve forth.

Recipe Serves 6 - 8 (or more as smaller appetizers)

Fish Dumplings

1 pound lean white fish, cut into 1" pieces
2 slices bread, crusts removed
1 cup almond milk
1 egg white (to help bind fish- included here because eggs are a primary ingredient in Guisseƚƚ but are missing from this recipe)
Pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper to taste
Sugar to taste


4 cups fish stock
3 sprigs of fresh parsley (can substitute 1 tbsp. dried)
1/2 tsp. sage
Pinch of Saffron

Please, please, please--this cannot be stressed enough--use a well flavored stock (gravy) for your broth to poach the dumplings in, otherwise this dish will be very bland. I would strongly suggest that you make your own following the directions that can be found here, and substituting fish bones for beef or chicken bones. You may also want to round out the flavor of the stock by adding some fennel and white wine as part of the cooking liquid.

If you are unable to secure enough fish scraps and bones to make a broth, you can substitute a 50/50 mixture of vegetable stock and chicken stock. I would caution against using a premade "seafood stock" unless you are very certain that nobody with a shellfish allergy will be present. Seafood stock is usually made with shells of crab, shrimp, lobster in addition to fish bones.

Warm the milk up slightly and add saffron to it. Allow it to come to a cool temperature.

To make your dumplings you will want to soak your bread in the milk and then mash it until it becomes a paste. Grind your fish, either by using a blender, or using a sausage maker. It is important that the fish retain some texture and is not a paste. Blend the bread paste with the fish and remaining ingredients.

Here you have a choice. You can follow the medieval instructions of bringing the broth to a boil, stirring it quickly and adding your fish mixture to the broth. This, I imagine will act like poaching an egg, and allow the mixture to come together similar to a poached egg, or, like the Guissel, form many jagged dumplings of an uneven size. Continue to stir until the mixture becomes thick. The instructions state to " then take it from the fire, and set the vessel on a few coals, and let it wax stiff be his own accord; then serve forth." This method appears to suggest that the dumplings should be allowed to continue to cook for a short time before serving.

Or, you can diverge (as I did) and follow a more modern method of bringing a large pot of salted water to just below a simmer, and dropping your dough into it by the tablespoonful. If you are following this method, the dumplings will fall to the bottom of the pot and then rise up when they are completely cooked.

To serve, place your dumplings into your broth, garnish as desired and serve it forth.

This may seem like a very "fussy" dish to serve at an event, however, the dumplings can be made ahead of time and frozen prior to poaching. Day of the event, remove your frozen dumplings, place them in the boiling and salted water and proceed as per usual.

This is a very delicate dish, it could serve as a pottage in a first course, or, the dumplings can be served without broth or sauce on the side of a main dish in the second course as a garnish, or to round out the meal. I would suggest that plating the fish dumplings in a thin puddle of beautifully hot stock, garnished with boiled vegetables (asparagus, leeks, parsnips or a non-orange carrot) would be lovely.

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Ancient Cookery [Arundel 334], (England, 1425)

Jussel of sysshe. Take frye of female pike, and pille away the skyn; and take the liver of codlinge, and bray altogeder; and take grated bred and cast therto in the brayinge, and when it waxes stif put hit into a chargeour, and colour hit depe with saffron; and then take grave of pyke, and grave of congur, and of calver salmon, and put al into a panne; and take parcel (parsley), and sauge hewen, but not too smalle, and boyle hit ensemble.; and when hit is boyled put in a potstik and stere hit wel, and ' when hit begynnes to crudde do away the potstik, and let hit boyle afterwarde a gode qwyle ; and then set hit doun, and dresse up fix leches in a dysshe, and strawe theron pouder of ginger; and serve hit forthe.