A rich and delicious lemon caper butter sauce that’s perfect spooned over plain baked fish for a simple but indulgent dinner.
Do you ever wonder what your ancestors ate? I do. I recently bought myself some reprints of vintage Jewish cookery books. Hours can pass by in a flash as I browse the pages, discovering historical recipes and tracing the evolution of different dishes. And of course seeing how different – or similar – our diets are now to how they were a hundred or more years ago.
In the last few years, print-on-demand technology has resurrected lots of old titles, which of course are now out-of-copyright. Time was, you’d have to spend £100s to get your hands on antique cookbooks. And then I’d be too scared to read or use them for fear of damaging them! Now, facsimile copies can be ordered on the internet for just a few pounds/dollars, and arrive at your door not long after. Brilliant!
It’s fair to say that not all historical recipes have stood the test of time. I don’t think I’ll be making a plain boiled calves head, French fashion, anytime soon, for example.
However some of the other recipes looked really quite familiar. As I was browsing the pages of An Easy And Economical Book Of Jewish Cookery from 1874, I also found Dutch Apple Pie, Tomato Soup, and Potatoes Baked in the Skin. How modern!
Caper Butter Sauce
Both the book mentioned above, and The Jewish Manual (1846) feature recipes for caper sauce. This is something that we enjoy with fish quite regularly, although I don’t make it exactly as written in these books.
The Jewish Manual‘s recipe reads:
This is merely melted butter with a few pickled capers simmered in it, or they may be put into a sauce made of broth thickened with egg, and a little flour.
The recipe from An Easy And Economical Book Of Jewish Cookery is slightly more involved, calling for the cook to:
Put in a small saucepan 2 oz. of butter, 1 spoonful of flour, ½ a teacup of milk or water, salt, pepper. Set it to warm, keep shaking the saucepan all the time till it thickens, then stir in a good spoonful of capers.
Where are the lemons?
Neither of these recipes calls for lemon, which surprised me. Lemon and orange are flavours that appear throughout both of these books, as presumably these fruits were easily available.
However lemons and oranges tended to be used in sweet dishes and desserts. I guess that the familiar pairing of white fish and fresh lemon juice didn’t come into existence until later.
Lemon caper butter sauce
Here at FFF towers, this delicious sauce for fish ALWAYS includes lemon! I tend to favour the less fussy version – “merely melted butter with a few pickled capers” – plus a generous squeeze of lemon.
Despite being made with only three simple ingredients, this historic sauce is truly scrumptious. Rich and buttery, with sharpness from the lemon and the delicious flavour of capers.
It’s fantastic poured over any kind of white fish. I usually bake some fillets of cod, hake or haddock, and then serve them with the lemon caper butter sauce spooned over the top.
Lemon caper butter sauce – ingredients
The clues are all there in the name! To make this delicious and simple sauce for fish, all you will need is:
- Butter – I usually use salted butter, but unsalted will work too
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Capers – I prefer the tiny ‘nonpareil’ capers but any size is fine
- Fresh parsley – optional but delicious
How to make lemon caper butter sauce
To make this tasty sauce, first, simply melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the lemon juice and whisk into the butter. Then simply stir in the capers and chopped parsley if you’re using it, and warm through.
Spoon the sauce over some baked white fish fillets and serve! A wedge of lemon and a sprinkle of parsley make a simple and delightful garnish.
An oldie but a goodie
Once you’ve tasted this delicious caper sauce, you’ll understand why it’s still popular over 150 years since the recipe was published in one of those vintage books! I’m sure it’s one you’ll come back to again and again, just like we do.
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Fish with lemon caper butter sauce
- 2 fillets of white fish e.g. cod, haddock, hake etc. (approx. 120g/4¼ oz each)
- 50 g butter + a little extra
- 1 lemon – juice only
- 2 tsp capers, drained
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- lemon wedges and chopped parsley to garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease with butter.
- Rinse the fish fillets and pat dry. Place on the buttered foil and bake at 180°C (350°F) for 12-15 minutes until just cooked through.
- Meanwhile make the sauce. In a small saucepan, melt the 50g (3½ tbsp) butter over a low-medium heat. Add the freshly squeezed juice of a lemon and whisk to combine.
- Stir in the capers and parsley. Warm through for a few seconds and remove from the heat.
- Serve the fish with the sauce spooned over. Garnish with lemon wedges and more chopped parsley if desired.
More delicious fish recipes
If you enjoyed this simple and tasty fish recipe, you might also enjoy oven baked cod with a sun-dried tomato and herb crust, easy baked fish with juicy rainbow peppers, or crispy grilled mackerel with garlic and lemon.
I’m linking this delicious fish recipe up with #CookBlogShare.