A Boke of Gode Cookery Presents

Elus Bakyn in Dyshes

PERIOD: England, 15th century | SOURCE: MS Harley 5401 | CLASS: Authentic

DESCRIPTION: Eels baked in wine


Elus Bakyn in Dyshes. Recipe eles, & cowche þam in a dysh, & cast on salt & saferon & powdyre of pepyr, & couer þat dysh with anoþer dysh & set it on þe coles, & turn þe dysh aboute and put in a lityll wyne in þe fyrst tyrne for savyng of þe vessell, & put þe hot coles in a hole in þe erth & so lat it bolyle, & serof it forth.

- Hieatt, Constance B. "The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary." Medium Ævum vol. 65, no. 1 (1996): 54-71.


Eels baked in dishes. Recipe: eels, & lay them in a dish, & cast on salt & saffron & powder of pepper, & cover that dish with another dish & set it on the coals, & turn the dish about and put in a little wine in the first turn for saving of the vessel, & put the hot coals in a hole in the earth & let it boil, & serve it forth.


  • 3-4 lbs. eels
  • Salt
  • Saffron
  • Pepper
  • Red wine
If using fresh eels, skin & clean, then cut them into portion-sized pieces. (See instructions for cleaning eels, below.) Lay them in a baking dish and sprinkle on salt, pepper, & saffron. Add enough red wine to just come to the top of the eels. Cover the dish and place in a 375° F oven. Bake for approx. 30 to 45 minutes, or until the eels are thoroughly cooked and tender when tested with a fork. Serve.

Cooking outdoors with coals:

Dig a hole twice the size and depth of the baking dish you will be using. Fill with hot coals or charcoal. Following the recipe above, place all ingredients except the wine in an earthenware baking dish with a lid.  Lay this dish on top of the hot coals until it has completely heated. Remove from the coals and add the wine. Bury the dish up to its sides in the hot coals; allow to cook for approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the eels are thoroughly cooked and tender when tested with a fork. Serve.

Cleaning eels:

Slip a noose around the eel's head and hang the other end of the cord on a hook, high on the wall. Cut the eel skin about 3 inches below the head all around, so as not to penetrate the gall bladder which lies close to the head. Peel the skin back, pulling back hard - if necessary with a pair of pliers - until the whole skin comes off like a glove. Clean the fish by slitting the white belly and removing the gut which lies close to the thin belly skin.

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Elus Bakyn in Dyshes © 2000 James L. Matterer

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