Janny de Moor Janny de Moor

Old-time Dutch cod with capers


For two:


  • water, salt
  • 2 thick cod fillets
  • 50 g butter
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 300 g coarse-cut spinach (deep frozen)
  • 2 slices of white bread, butter
  • lemon slices

‘Old-time Dutch’ since I found this recipe in De volmaakte Hollandse Keuken Meid (1761, The Perfect Dutch Kitchen Maid). The author writes in lovely old Dutch:

Neemt wel gereinigde levendige (= verse) Kabbeljaauw en snyd die in mooten; zout het water terdege en kookt ze, en eet die … met boter, die men met een weinigje koud water om te binden al roerende op het vuur laat smelten. En dan doet men er … eindelyk wat kappers en limoensap op’ (Take a well-cleaned fresh cod, cut it in pieces; pour a liberal amount of salt into the water and cook it, eat the fish … with butter, which you melt on the fire with some water to bind it. And in .. the end put some capers and lemon juice on it).

So I ask the fish monger at the stall for pieces of cod. His anwer: “You are right, fish on the bone is much tastier, but nobody wants to buy it these days.” So I come home with thick fillets, strangely enough called haasjes (tenderloin !) here.

Did people know about capers at the time? For sure. We  find this flower bud in Cruijdeboeck (Book of herbs, 1554) written by Dodonaeus, who lived in Gent (Belgium), then part of our country. Andrew Dalby (Food in the Ancient World, 2003) even states that Kappari (capparis spinosa) were gathered as early as 7000 BCE, as is evident from discoveries in the cave of Franchthi (Aeolian sea).

  • Bring salted water to the boil in a wide deep frying pan. Poach the fish fillets gently until the flesh is not shiny any more (appr. 10 minutes). Take from the pan with a slotted spoon.
  • Defrost the spinach in the microwave oven during 5 minutes, under cover, highest power. Drain in a sieve.
  • Cut the crusts from the bread slices, spread with butter on both sides. Fry either side light brown in the wiped out fish pan. Take from the pan, slice into strips. These are called soldaatjes (little soldiers) in Dutch.
  • Put the fish back into the pan. Make a buttersauce as described by the Kitchenmaid. Ladle it over the fish. Arrange the spinach all around. Close the pan and leave to warm softly for some minutes.
  • Garnish the spinach with the ‘soldiers’ and the lemon, sprinkle the capers on the fish and serve.

Wine: Sauvignon blanc


Menu suggestion

  • Starter: Matjes Herring with minced onion on lamb’s lettuce and pickled beets.
  • Dessert: Pear flans (Perenstruifjes). Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas 6. Mix together 30 g sugar, 30 g plain flour, a pinch of salt. Beat in 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons milk to make a smooth batter. Pour over slices of pear in a greased oven dish (18 cm). Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

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