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Fish Envelope // 1940s

Out of all the antique recipes that we’ve tried so far, this one has become one of our favourites. This 1943 recipe for a ‘Fish Envelope’ delivers a tasty fish pasty that is packed with flavour and is as versatile as it is delicious.
You can have it hot out of the oven with a savoury sauce as the recipe suggests (check out our 1940s tomato sauce recipe, linked below), or wrap it in foil and pack it away in your work lunch box or picnic hamper. You can use any fish, curry powder/paste or rice that you like (the recipe doesn’t specify), and use either flaky pastry or rough puff. The original recipe leaves it entirely up to you.
Halved, one pasty is large enough to serve two people. We doubled all of the amounts, making two Fish Envelopes and four servings – enough for dinner on the day of making and lunch the next day.
Original Recipes: 'Fish Envelope' and 'Rough Puff Pastry' (Book 6, 1943)
Speed: About 1 ½ hrs | Serves: 4 (one envelope serves 2)


For the Rough Puff Pastry:

  • 1 lb / 453 g of Plain Flour

  • 5 oz / 142 g of Margarine

  • 5 oz / 142 g of Lard

  • A pinch of Salt

  • Some Cold Water

  • A Lemon

  • 1 Egg (optional)

For the Filling:

  • 2 large (or about 6 small) Sliced Tomatoes

  • 1 oz / 28 g Rice (we used long grain)

  • 1 tsp. Curry Powder or Paste (we used Madras paste)

  • 1 oz / 28 g Margarine

  • 8 oz / 227g Fish (we used a salmon fillet which weighed around 218g – just under)

  • Salt and Pepper to season with

To serve with:



Cook the fish

1. Heat your oven, place your fish fillet in a greased dish and bake per the instructions on the packet, or given by your fishmonger. Ours cooked in 15 minutes at 180°C / 356°F / Gas Mark 4. Then turn the oven off. If your fish cooks through before you come to use it, keep it warm in the oven.

Make a rough puff pastry

2. Mix the flour and salt in a large basin and rub in the fats until they come together like breadcrumbs.

3. Squeeze half a lemon into some water (about 200ml) and add this to the rest a little at a time, mixing until it all starts to come together.

4. Knead until the pastry becomes elastic and form it into a ball. Turn it out onto a floured surface and dust with flour and roll out into a long strip.

5. Repeat the following steps 3 times (4 on a cold day):

a) Fold the strip of pastry in three,

b) turn it over so that the edges face downwards

c) roll it out again into a strip.

Note: On the final roll, we rolled our pastry out to a thickness of 8mm ( inch).

To make the envelopes

6. Re-heat the oven to 200°C (392°F / Gas Mark 6).

7. Flake the fish and discard the skin (if there is one), and put the flaked fish into a bowl.

8. Boil the rice to cook as you usually would. Once cooked, drain the rice and add it to the fish while both are still hot. Mix into this the margarine, stirring in until it has melted.

9. Then add the curry powder or paste, sliced tomatoes and a little salt & pepper. Mix all together well.

10. Bring back the pastry and cut it in half length-ways. Pile half of the filling into the middle of the pastry, shaping into a neat rectangle or square.

11. Brush the sides of the pastry with a little water and flip the other end of the pastry over the filling to cover it completely. Press down the sides to stick them together and trim with a knife or a pizza cutter to make them straight.

12. Cut off the corners of the other end to resemble the flap of an envelope, trimming some of the excess pastry off first if necessary. Wet the edges of the flap with a little water and stick this down.

13. Repeat the above with the second half of pastry and filling so that you have two large envelopes. Transfer these to a well buttered baking tray and, if liked, brush with egg to add a little more colour.

14. Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot with a savoury sauce, such as this WW2 tomato sauce.


Original Recipes for 'Fish Envelope' and 'Rough Puff Pastry'

BOOK 6: Manual of Modern Cookery, 7th Edition (1943) Author: Jessie Lindsay & V.H. Mottram Publisher: University of London Press Ltd. (War-Time Address: St. Hugh's School, Bickley, Kent, England, U.K.)

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