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 A Taste of Ancient Rome

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: A Taste of Ancient Rome   Fri 05 May 2017, 09:29

In the introduction to his book, ‘Around the Roman Table’ (Macmillan, 2003) Patrick Haas wrote:

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating. This makes it hard to appreciate ancient Roman cuisine because we cannot taste the dishes made by cooks who lived two thousand years ago. We can admire Roman architecture because some of it still stands. Amazing works of glass, metal, stone and clay have been excavated. The achievements of Roman artists have remained a constant inspiration to others down the generations. Roman and Greek aesthetics have influenced countless fashions. But what we know of Roman cooking is often referred to with horror. …. [But ] if we take the Romans at their own word their culinary artistry was very sophisticated.

It may be a little over-ambitious to attempt to revive Roman cooking to their high standards: it isn’t easy to equal great art. Try painting a fresco like the ones found in Pompeii, or writing a poem in Latin in the style of Virgil. If you think that’s hard then imagine trying to imitate an art form in which you can’t experience the original."


...ooOOoo...

There exists only one fairly complete collection of recipes from the Roman period: 'Apicius' sometimes also known by the title 'De re coquinaria' - On the Subject of Cooking. This dates from about the late 4th century AD and was written in vulgar Latin and in a style which suggests that it was to be used by working cooks rather than, say, being a collection of recipes gathered together by a dilettante epicure. Who actually wrote the original is unknown although the eponymous title would appear to derive from Marcus Gavius Apicius, a famous Roman gourmet and lover of fine food, who lived in the 1st century during the reign of Tiberius.

Out of the several hundred recipes in the collection very few give quantities, indeed many are little better than simple lists of ingredients. How, then, is one to judge just what the resultant dish actually tasted like?  For example Apicius’ recipe (Ap. 336) for a sauce to accompany roast pork says to mix together, "pepper, caraway, lovage, roasted coriander seed, dill seed, celery seed, thyme, oregano, onion, honey, vinegar, mustard, garum and oil."  But how spicy was it? Was it firey hot with pepper and mustard or was it a subtle sweet/sour blend of herbs and spices? Did one or two flavours dominate or was it a more balanced mix? And was this intended merely as a condiment to enliven the roast meat, or was it a sauce liberally coating the slices of cooked pork?

When attempting such dishes in the modern kitchen there is inevitably the temptation to season as one would today - perhaps guided by modern Middle Eastern, Indian or Chinese cuisine - and so primarily to produce something that is acceptable to a modern palate. This is the usual approach used by most cookery writers claiming to give recipes that recreate ‘authentic’ Roman dishes. But I’m more interested in trying to discover what the food the Romans themselves ate really tasted like. As said above a major problem is the lack of quantities in surviving Roman texts. However I have found about a dozen recipes in Apicius which do give fairly precise quantities and so I think we can, at least in part, answer some of these questions.

But before we approach the recipes, first a few preliminary comments about Roman measures and ingredients.

The Roman pound, or libra, was equal to 0.721 of a modern Imperial pound, or approximately 11.5 ounces. It was, however, divided into only 12 ounces, or unciae, whereas the modern pound is divided into 16. Accordingly, the Roman ounce and modern Imperial ounce are very close in weight. Similarly the Roman pint measure, or sextarius, was equal to 0.96 of an Imperial pint. The following gives Roman measures compared to Imperial and Metric measures.

libra (a Roman pound) – 0.72 lb or 11.5 ounces – 328.9g
semilibra (1/2 Roman pound) – 0.36 lb or 5.8 ounces – 164.5g
uncia (a Roman ounce 1/12, Roman pound) – 0.97 ounce – 27.4g
scripulum (a scruple 1/24 Roman ounce) – 0.04 ounce – 1.14g

sextarius (a Roman pint) – 9.61 pint or 19.22 fl oz – 546 ml
hemina (1/2 Roman pint) – 9.61 fl oz – 273 ml
quatarius (1/4 Roman pint) -  4.79 fl oz – 136 ml
acetabulum (1/8 Roman pint) – 2.39 fl oz – 68 ml
cyanthus (1/12 Roman pint) – 1.58 fl oz – 45 ml

…. there was also  the delightfully named coclearum, meaning literally a ”snail’s shellful”, which wasn’t precisely defined but was intended to mean something like a small spoonful.

Both recipes include that ubiquitous Roman ingredient garum (also called liquamen), that is, the very popular, salty, fishy, liquid condiment made from fermented fish. True garum is no longer produced but very similar fermented fish sauces are still made, particularly in South-East Asia, and accordingly one can use Vietnamese nuoc cham or Thai nam pla, obtainable from an Asian groceries.

Recipe I calls for laser which was the dried gum obtained from the silphium plant. Silphium is believed to have been a type of giant fennel which originally flourished in the province of Cyrenaica (modern Lybia): it was the country’s principal export and became a national symbol, appearing on the local coins and reliefs. The plant itself was eaten, the stem boiled or roasted, but the juice extracted from the roots and base of the stem was more important. This was laser. But the plant proved impossible to cultivate and so had to be gathered from the wild. Unfortunately it was harvested with such zeal by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans that by the 1st century AD it was probably extinct, at least all along the southern coast of the Mediterranean. One of the last plants found, rather than being left to possibly propagate, was dug up, brought to Rome and ceremoniously presented to Nero, who had it cooked.

Thereafter Roman cooks had to fall back onto substitutes, which the less affluent had always done because of the high price of the real stuff. A closely related plant, Ferula asafoetida, called by the Romans 'Parthian silphium' grew in Persia and neighbouring lands, and this was the main substitute for the extinct silphium, and as a paste or powder, asafoetida, or heeng in Hindi, is still used in the cuisine of north India, Afghanistan, Iran and parts of the Middle East. Although considered much inferior to silphium, asafoetida still commanded high prices and so Roman cooks in poorer households often simply substituted garlic, which is an option for modern cooks if having trouble getting asafoetida.

Recipe II specifies the meat from ficedula birds (also known as beccafico birds). The ficedula is a small migratory songbird of the warbler family resembling a nightingale. The Latin name literally means figpecker and these birds were regarded as a delicacy by both the Greeks and Romans who snared the birds in Autumn when they were fattened up on figs and other fruit prior to their migration to Africa. They are of course protected these days.

Anyway here are two relatively simple, everyday-type recipes from Apicius that, most importantly, give fairly precise quantities.

Recipe I - Pullum oxyzomum (Ap. 241):
olei acetabulum maius,
laseris satis modice,
liquaminis acetabulum minus,
aceti acetabulum perquam minus,
piperis scripulos sex,
petroselini scripulum,
porri fasciculum.

In translation and with the quantities given in modern metric measures,

Chicken oxyzomum :
[olive] oil “a good” 70ml,
Asafoetida (substituting for laser) “a little is enough”
Liquamen “less than” 70ml
Vinegar “much less than” 70ml
Pepper – six scruples (7g)
Parsley – one scruple (1g)
A stalk of leek


Recipe II - Aliter patina de asparagis frigida (Ap. 125):
Accipies asparagos purgatos, in mortario fricabis, aqua suffundes, perfricabis, per colum colabis. Et mittes in caccabum ficedulas curatas. teres in mortario piperis scripulos VI, adicies liquamen, fricabis, postea adicies vini cyathum unum, passi cyathum unum, mittes in caccabum olei uncias III, illic ferveant, perunges patinam, in ea ova VI cum oenogaro misces, cum suco asparagi impones cineri calido, mittes impensam supra scriptam. tunc ficedulas compones coques, piper asperges et inferes.

Cold asparagus (another way)
Take cleaned asparagus, grind in a mortar, and drench with cold water. Drain in a colander. Set aside meats prepared from ‘figpecker birds’. Grind in a mortar six scruples (7g) of peppercorns, moisten with liquamen and mix [to a paste]. In a pan heat this mixture with one twelfth of a ‘pint’ (45ml) of wine, one twelfth of a ‘pint’ (45ml) of raisin wine, three ‘ounces’ (82g or about 60ml) of [olive] oil. Then in an oiled dish put six eggs seasoned with the wine sauce and asparagus [puree]. Place this on the hot ashes in the thermosodium [a charcoal-burning heater like a small brazier used to provide steady heat to dishes] and then put on this the mixture described. Then mix in the meats. Cook. Sprinkle with pepper. [Cool] and serve.

.... I'll let you know how I get on.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of Ancient Rome   Fri 05 May 2017, 13:47

Fascinating as ever, MM, thanks. I'm interested in the substitution of asafoetida (obtainable in all good supermarkets) for silphium as it is used in Indian cookery by some Hindu castes instead of alliums which are forbidden on religious grounds. This would suggest therefore that silphium tasted more oniony/garlicy than fennelly which would make sense since they didn't just choose to use ordinary fennel, or even celery, which would seem to be the obvious substitute if it was the aniseed flavour they wanted.

Wasn't the search for silphium one of plot points of one of Lindsey Davies' novels, the one set in North Africa?
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of Ancient Rome   Fri 05 May 2017, 14:32

@ferval wrote:
I'm interested in the substitution of asafoetida (obtainable in all good supermarkets) for silphium as it is used in Indian cookery by some Hindu castes instead of alliums which are forbidden on religious grounds. This would suggest therefore that silphium tasted more oniony/garlicy than fennelly which would make sense since they didn't just choose to use ordinary fennel, or even celery, which would seem to be the obvious substitute if it was the aniseed flavour they wanted.

Wasn't the search for silphium one of plot points of one of Lindsey Davies' novels, the one set in North Africa?

Yes you're right, asafoetida doesn't have a fennel taste/smell at all, it's definitely more like strong garlic ... one could even liken it to rotten garlic as I find it has quite a musky, almost fungussy smell, although that might be because my jar of asafoetida is quite old. It is certainly to be used rather sparingly ... which is another reason why my jar of the stuff in my larder has been there for so many years. Silphium, and asafoetida once silphium was unobtainable, were expensive imports to Rome, and so less affluent cooks substituted with ordinary garlic.

I'd forgotten the Lindsey Davis story ... was it 'Two for the Lions' in which, as I recall, Falco went to Tripioli.

PS Here's a silphium plant depicted on a silver drachm from Cyrenaica (c. 300 BC):




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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of Ancient Rome   Fri 05 May 2017, 14:49

That's the one. When we were being shown round the museum in Tripoli - it's enough to make one weep in retrospect - by one of the profs from the university he recommended that book as an excellent and remarkably accurate introduction to the wild animal trade in Tripolitania.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of Ancient Rome   Fri 05 May 2017, 20:29

A Taste of Ancient Rome - Part II.

Recipe I - Pullum oxyzomum.

For the liquamen/garum I used Vietnamese nuoc cham, and in place of the laser I used powdered asafoetida, both obtained from a local specialist asian grocer. For the vinegar I used a good red-wine vinegar. Despite giving exact quantities Apicius still fudges a bit with his liquid measures when he qualifies the stated "one acetabulum" (70ml) quantites each for oil, liquamen and vinegar, by saying respectively “a good”, “less than”, and “much less than”, … and so I used 70ml of oil, 60ml of liquamen and 50ml of vinegar. For the “stalk of leek” I used just the white bit, so ended up with about 70g in total. For Apicius's “a little is enough” of asafoetida, I interpreted this, equally imprecisely, as “a pinch” ... I'll leave that up to you whether you prefer an Imperial or Metric, "pinch".

Apicius gives no instructions but I think we can safely assume one should crush/chop the leek and parsley, grind the peppercorns, then mix all together with the liquid ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for a bit, before serving with a boiled or roasted chicken broken into pieces for eating by hand.

From the ingredients it sounds very similar to a modern vinaigrette dressing and I thought it would be quite thin and runny, and had expected the oil and vinegar to separate out. However with the mashed leak, and after boiling for a few minutes, it was thicker and more consistent than I had expected (though the oil did still tend to separate out). Nevertheless it is still clearly a dipping sauce for dunking pieces of chicken eaten with the fingers, rather than a sauce to cover pieces served up in a dish. In total I ended up with about 250ml, or a third of a pint, of sauce, which is enough for about four to six small individual bowls ... although of course if dining in formal Roman style we would be reclined on the couches of the triclinium, using our hands, and with each dish shared between several neighbouring diners. I had mine, alone and unshared, as an accompaniment to some plain, grilled, un-boned chicken thighs.



Given the amounts of all the other ingredients I thought the tiny specified amount of fresh parsley - by weight it is only a seventh of the amount of pepper -  and so got rather lost amongst everything else. Is the one scruple of parsley an error and should it perhaps read six scruples? The mix contains quite a lot of pepper but the pepper certainly didn’t dominate at all. If anything it had a sharp oniony/vinegary taste, but nicely rounded with the deeper, musky flavours of the fish sauce and asafoetida. The flavour of asafoetida in particular might come across as a bit unusual to modern European palates (especially if one is unfamiliar with north Indian cuisine) but again it wasn’t overpowering. All in all a slightly unusual combination of flavours, though not bizarrely so, and certainly not disagreeable, and the sharpness actually went very well with the inevitably slightly fatty/oily taste of the grilled chicken pieces.  As well as being suitable for a dipping sauce it would work equally well as a condiment sauce to be splashed onto other dishes, such as eggy tart of recipe II.


Recipe II - Asparagis frigida.

The quantity of asparagus is not stated but for six eggs a good-sized bunch seemed appropriate. Roman asparagus was probably closer in form to thin wild asparagus rather than the modern, stocky, cultivated stuff (wild and cultivated asparagus are exactly the same species, it’s just that the modern commercially grown stuff has been improved by selective breeding to give stockier spears). For purists you can still readily find wild asparagus in southern France, it is in season now (early May), and although generally somewhat weedier, it has exactly same taste. I used two bunches of fresh, shop-bought, green asparagus (not the blanched white stuff), but used only the tender tips and discarded (to the stock pot) the more solid lower stalks. I ended up with about 600g of washed asparagus which I then finely chopped,and then mashed to a purée in a mortar.

Ficedula birds are of course protected these days. I considered using the breast and thigh meat of commercially reared quails, but frankly since we’re only talking about small morsels of meat added to what is primarily a vegetable and egg dish, in the end I just used small pieces of chicken thigh meat. Indeed this must surely have been what many Roman cooks did, especially when it wasn’t the season for figpeckers. Figpeckers are rather small birds so basically you would only get two bite-sized breasts plus the two, even smaller, thighs. I used four chicken thighs which I skinned, deboned and cut into roughly 1cm cubes (about 300g meat in total). These pieces I lightly fried in oil for a few minutes just to ensure they were cooked (this was probably unnecessary).

The Romans recognised various types of wine: red and white, sweet and dry, old and young, etc,  but for this recipe Apicius doesn’t specify what wine to use, so I used an ordinary white vin de table, and for the raisin wine a sweet amber-coloured Muscat de Rivesaltes which is made from grapes left on the vines to naturally dry and concentrate the sugars (ie it is a raisin wine).

For the garum, as in the first recipe, I used Vietnamese nuoc cham sauce. The principal seasoning however is obviously pepper. The recipe calls for 7g of peppercorns to be ground in a mortar, which sounds like quite a modest amount until you realise it equates to about one and a half level teaspoons of pepper.

Apicius very rarely gives instructions to add salt. This may be because, then as now, salt was an almost ubiquitous seasoning and so it was simply left to the cook's discretion, or it may be because many of the ingredients used in the Roman kitchen were already quite salty. Garum in particular is very salty and goes into most dishes in Apicius, including this one. Accordingly I added no additional salt.

Other than that I basically followed Apicius's instructions ... and so I dry-fried/roasted the ground pepper for a few minutes in a pan, and then moistened it with garum to get a paste. In a bowl I mixed the wines, olive oil and lightly beaten eggs, then stirred in the pepper paste and asparagus purée. I poured this mix into an oiled ceramic dish (for authenticity I used an unglazed, terracotta plant-pot saucer, 20cm in diameter x 2cm deep), and finally put in the pieces of meat. Then I put it to cook. I did consider cooking it over charcoal on the BBQ, but in the end opted to heat it on the hob, very, very carefully as I wasn’t using a modern oven-proof dish. I finally finished it off in a medium hot oven until the middle had almost completely set and the top had browned a bit. I tasted a slice of it hot, but then left the rest to cool and properly set, as per the original recipe.



Unsurprisingly, given the principal ingredients, it tasted rather like a Spanish omelette made with asparagus but no potatoes. The flavours of the wine and fish sauce were not individually evident at all with the overall flavour being of asparagus and egg. The large quantity of pepper was clearly evident but though the dish certainly had a peppery bite it was not unpleasantly ‘spicy hot’, and no more than you would have got from a modest dash of Tabasco.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of Ancient Rome   Fri 05 May 2017, 23:48

Thanks, MM, for a distraction from the (mostly) calamitous local election results. I've used asafoetida in curries but then you really can't discern the taste among rhe other spices but you sure can smell it when you open the jar.
Tonight I have been looking at Gutenburg's first English translation by Joseph Dommers Vehling and I see that the foreword proposes that liquamen can be translated as broth.

Take liquamen for instance. It may stand for broth, sauce, stock, gravy, drippings, even for court bouillon — in fact for any liquid appertaining to or derived from a certain dish or food material. Now, if Apicius prescribes liquamen for the preparation of a meat or a vegetable, it is by no means clear to the uninitiated what he has in mind. In fact, in each case the term liquamen is subject to the interpretation of the experienced practitioner. Others than he would at once be confronted with an unsurmountable difficulty. Scientists may not agree with us, but such is kitchen practice. Hence the many fruitless controversies at the expense of the original, at the disappointment of science  
I love that last sarky comment.  

Here is the entry for the chicken dish, our opinionated chef/translator makes his own suggestion as to method:


238] CHICKEN SOUR                               PULLUM OXYZOMUM

A GOOD-SIZED GLASS OF OIL, A SMALLER GLASS OF BROTH, AND THE SMALLEST MEASURE OF VINEGAR, 6 SCRUPLES OF PEPPER, PARSLEY AND A BUNCH OF LEEKS.

G.-V. [laseris] satis modice.

These directions are very vague. If the raw chicken is quartered, fried in the oil, and then braised in the broth with a dash of vinegar, the bunch of leeks and parsley, seasoned with pepper and a little salt, we have a dish gastronomically correct. The leeks may be served as a garnish, the gravy, properly reduced and strained over the chicken which like in the previous formula is served in a casserole.


If the liquamen was indeed stock then I could see this as a pretty classic braised chicken  but I'd sauté the sliced leeks with the chicken.


Is your translation markedly different, I see it uses different recipe numbers? This one seems decidedly dated, early 1930s I think, so I'm sure there's better available. i do like the dictatorial Fanny Craddock style though,

This is his take on the asparagus fritatta, or was it more of a set custard as in the second recipe - another asparagus  
custard? With that egg to liquid ratio it must have been a right pig to stop the eggs scrambling.


[132] ANOTHER COLD ASPARAGUS [and Figpecker] DISH      ALITER PATINA DE ASPARAGIS FRIGIDA

COLD ASPARAGUS PIE IS MADE IN THIS MANNER [1] TAKE WELL CLEANED [cooked] ASPARAGUS, CRUSH IT IN THE MORTAR, DILUTE WITH WATER AND PRESENTLY STRAIN IT THROUGH THE COLANDER. NOW TRIM, PREPARE [i.e. cook or roast] FIGPECKERS [2] [and hold them in readiness]. 3 [3] SCRUPLES OF PEPPER ARE CRUSHED IN THE MORTAR, ADD BROTH, A GLASS OF WINE, PUT THIS IN A SAUCEPAN WITH 3 OUNCES OF OIL, HEAT THOROUGHLY. MEANWHILE OIL YOUR PIE MOULD, AND WITH 6 EGGS, FLAVORED WITH ŒNOGARUM, AND THE ASPARAGUS PREPARATION AS DESCRIBED ABOVE; THICKEN THE MIXTURE ON THE HOT ASHES. THEREUPON ARRANGE THE FIGPECKERS IN THE MOULD, COVER THEM WITH THIS PURÉE, BAKE THE DISH. [When cold, unmould it] SPRINKLE WITH PEPPER AND SERVE.

[1] Tor.

[2] Lan. and Tac. ficedulas curtas tres; Tor. curtas f.—three figpeckers cut fine. G.-V. F. curatas. Teres in ... (etc.)—Prepared F.

[3] List. six; G.-V. id.

[133] ANOTHER ASPARAGUS CUSTARD                      ALIA PATINA DE ASPARAGIS

ASPARAGUS PIE IS MADE LIKE THIS [1] PUT IN THE MORTAR ASPARAGUS TIPS [2] CRUSH PEPPER, LOVAGE, GREEN CORIANDER, SAVORY AND ONIONS; CRUSH, DILUTE WITH WINE, BROTH AND OIL. PUT THIS IN A WELL-GREASED PAN, AND, IF YOU LIKE, ADD WHILE ON THE FIRE SOME BEATEN EGGS TO IT TO THICKEN IT, COOK [without boiling the eggs] AND SPRINKLE WITH VERY FINE PEPPER.

[1] Tor.

[2] Reference to wine wanting in Tor. We add that the asparagus should be cooked before crushing.



Next time I want to see your version of boiled ostrich.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of Ancient Rome   Sat 06 May 2017, 11:34

The trouble is that Apicius itself is very vague, the recipe for Pullum oxyzomum (Ap. 241) is little more than a list of ingredients:

olei acetabulum maius - “a good” 70ml of olive oil,
laseris satis modice - “a little is enough” of laser,
liquaminis acetabulum minus - “less than” 70ml of liquamen,
aceti acetabulum perquam minus - “much less than” 70ml of vinegar,
piperis scripulos sex - six scruples of pepper,
petroselini scripulum - a scruple of parsley,
porri fasciculum - a leek.

So while the measures are more or less defined, the method is still largely open to interpretation. Note also that the version of Apicius that has come down to us derives from a 10th century transcription, itself copied from two separate parts of what appear to have once been one work, and these two parts were almost certainly copied, independently, not from the original but from copies, or even a copies of copies ... with all the potential for error and re-interpretation that implies. There's also an abbreviated 'pocket Apicius' which was transcribed in the 8th century plus a few other fragments which also appear to come from Apicius, although they don't all contain the same material and so it is likely that there never was  'standard' Apicius because the contents changed and were adapted differently over time.

One thing that does seem fairly certain is the Romans' inordinate fondness for pepper. Of other recipes in Apicius that give precise quantities there’s also this one which is somewhat similar to recipe II above. It is for a sort of fruit omelette but yet again containing a relatively large amount of pepper. Elderberries are not in season at the moment (the bushes have only just started flowering here) but I intend to try this one when I can get some fruit. I’m interested to see how the pepper/sour fruit/egg combination works.

Patina de sabuco calida et frigida (Ap. 128)
accipies semen de sabuco, purgabis, ex aqua decoques, paulum ex siccabis, patinam perunges et in patinam compones ad surcellum adicies piperis scripulos VI,   suffundes liquamen, fricabis, postea adicies liquaminis cyathum unum, vini cyathum, passi cyathum, teres, tandem in patinam mittes olei unc IV, pones in thermospodio et facies ut ferveat. cum ferbuerit, franges postea ova VI, agitabis et patinam sic obligabis cum obligaveris, piper asparges et inferes.

Hot or cold elderberries
Take elderberries, clean them, cook in water, and drain in a colander. Grease a dish and arrange the elderberries with a small stick. Add six scruples (7g) of pepper, one-twelfth ‘pint’ of liquamen, and the same of wine and of raisin wine. Blend, then put four ‘ounces’ (110g) of [olive] oil into the [elderberry] mixture. Place the dish on the thermospodium (see recipe above) and heat. When the dish has cooked, break six eggs into it, stir and so thicken. Sprinkle with pepper and serve [either hot or cold].


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of Ancient Rome   Sat 06 May 2017, 11:43

@ferval wrote:

Next time I want to see your version of boiled ostrich.

I can get ostrich from my frozen food supplier ... but not a whole one you understand and anyway I haven't got a pot big enough.

Another two, rather more complex recipes, are the following, which are perhaps more typical of grander Roman cooking in that they use a much greater variety of herbs and spices to give a complex blend of flavours. These recipes, however, call for several ingredients which are none too common as culinary herbs these days, at least not in western Europe. I'd be game to give them a go but it might take me a while just to gather together all the ingredients.

Aliter assaturas(Ap.272)
petroselini scripulos VI, asareos scripulos VI, zingiberis scripulos VI, lauri bacas V, condimenti satis, laseris radicis scripulos VI, origani scripulos VI, cyperis scripulos VI, costi modice, pyrethri scripulos III, apii seminis scripulos VI, piperis scripulos XII, liquaminis et olei quod sufficit.
 
[sauce to accompany] Roast Meats
[Grind together]
Parsley six scruples (7g)
Hazelwort six scruples (7g)
Ginger six scruples (7g)
[Add] Five laurel berries
Laser root six scruples (7g)
Oregano six scruples (7g)
Cyperus six scruples(7g)
Costmary “a little”
Pellitory three scruples (3g)
Celery seed six scruples (7g)
Pepper twelve scruples (15g)
Liqamen and [olive] oil “as much as it will take up”

Or the very similar,

Aliter assaturas (Ap. 274)
piperis scripulos VI, ligustici scripulos VI, petroselini scripulos VI, apii seminisscripulos VI, anethi scripulos VI, laseris radicis scripulos VI, asareos scripulos VI, pyrethri modice, cyperis scripulos VI, carei scripulos VI, cumini scripulos VI, zingiberis scripulos VI, liquaminis heminam, olei acetabulum.
 
[sauce to accompany] Roast Meats
Pepper six scruples (7g)
Lovage six scruples (7g)
Parsley six scruples (7g)
Celery seed six scruples (7g)
Aniseed six scruples (7g)
Laser root six scruples (7g)
Pellitory “a little”
Cyperus six scruples (7g)
Caraway six scruples (7g)
Cumin six scruples (7g)
Ginger six scruples (7g)
Liquamen half a ‘pint’ (280ml)
[Olive] oil one-eighth of a ‘pint’ (70ml)

From the glossary to my copy of Apicius as well as some gardening books, plant encyclopedias and herbals .....

Ligusticum
is lovage which is probably the least unusual of these old herbs and can sometimes be found as a perennial pot herb in garden centres. Both the seeds and leaves have a pronounced yeasty, celery-like taste.

Cyperum
is a sedge the most commonly-known member of the family being Cyperus papyrus from which papyrus ‘paper’ was manufactured. But Apicius almost certainly intends the plant Cyperus esculentus, which is also known as the chufa sedge, nut sedge, or earth almond. Native to the lands around the Mediterranean it is still cultivated in some places for its edible tubers, which can be eaten whole, dried and ground as flour, or pressed to extract the oil. The flesh of the tubers, whether fresh or dried, has a slightly sweet nutty flavour, hence the name earth almond.

Asarum
is the plant (Asarum europaeum) variously known in English as hazelwort, foalbit, wild spikenard or wild ginger, although it is not related to either true spikenard or true ginger. It grows wild throughout Europe (except the UK and Scandinavia) and its leaves have a strong peppery taste. It was used medicinally as an emetic and cathartic, and was also sometimes utilised as a cheap adulterant in snuff. It is probably mildly toxic.

Costum
, (Tanacetum balsamita), otherwise known in English as costmary or alecost, was widely grown in herb gardens up until at least the 17 th century, principally for its medicinal uses against stomach problems, melancholy and ‘female hysteria’, but also as a pot herb because of the spicy-sweet balsamic flavour of the leaves. In England it was once a popular flavouring for beer, hence the name alecost.

Pyrethrum
or pellitory in English (Anacyclus pyrethrum) is a tall, straggly, daisy-like plant native to the Mediterranean. Somewhat like chilli or mustard, the sap induces heat, tingling and redness when applied to the skin, and so it was sometimes used by the Greeks and Romans as a ‘hot’ food spice. The flavour is akin to chamomile (a closely related plant) which would be a reasonable substitute although chamomile lacks pellitory’s spicy heat. Despite its Roman name, pellitory actually contains hardly any of the chemical pyrethrum, a powerful insecticide which occurs naturally in other plants of the same family.

Laurel berries should of course be from the true laurel or bay tree, Laurus nobilis,  rather than any other species of laurel whose berries and leaves are often toxic. Bay leaves are of course readily obtainable from supermarkets, but the hard berries rather less so. If struggling to get hold of any true laurel berries a few cloves would give a similar flavour.
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