Apicius 8.5.4 – Apician Boiled Beef

aliter in utulina elixa: piper ligusticum feniculi semen origanum nucleos careotam mel acetum liquamen, sinapi et oleo.
Apicius – De re coquinaria

Another recipe for boiled veal
Pepper, lovage, fennel seed, oregano, pine nuts, dates, honey, vinegar, liquamen, mustard and oil.

This text and translation are taken from Sally Grainger and Christopher Grocock’s Apicius (2006).

Beef was not a common ingredient on the tables of wealthy Romans; cows were primarily working animals (Dalby, 2003, 244), and thus were generally slaughtered when old and very tough.  There are only four recipes for beef in Apicius, and all specify veal – young animals.

Like many recipes in Apicius, this recipe is just a list of ingredients, and it doesn’t even list the beef. However, because the title specifies boiled beef, I have interpreted this as a stew.


500g beef such as chuck, shin or cheek 25mL wine vinegar
80g dates 15mL fish sauce
20g pine nuts 1/2 tsp pepper
25mL honey 1 tbs chopped lovage leaves
1/2 tsp fennel seed 1 tbs oregano leaves
1 tbs mustard


  1. Cut the beef into small chunks.
  2. Over a low heat, dry fry the spices until they are aromatic, taking care not to burn. Crush in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  3. In a low heated oven, toast the pine nuts until they are golden.
  4. Combine all the ingredients except the beef in a food processor and process to a paste, or grind to a paste in a mortar and pestle.
  5. Put the beef into a pan and just cover with water.
  6. Bring to the boil and add the paste.
  7. Combine everything well, then reduce the heat and cook until the beef is tender. It will take several hours. Add more water if necessary, otherwise the stew will burn and stick.


  • I have specified the cuts I have because these are cuts with a lot of connective tissue and are particularly suited for stewing – the longer you cook them the better they get. You can use other cuts, but they will not require as much cooking.
  • Lovage is a herb with a very similar taste to celery leaf. Sally Grainger (2006, 23) believes the seeds were more likely to be used than the leaves, as lovage is generally listed among the spices rather than the herbs, but the leaves and seeds have a similar flavour, so if you can’t find the seeds, use the leaves. You will probably have to grow it yourself, but it is easy to grow from seeds, and you can generally find plants at nurseries.
  • Liquamen is a fish sauce, probably thinner in texture than the better known garum. (Grainger, 2005).


Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.
Dalby, Andrew. Food in the Ancient World.
Grainger, Sally. “Towards an Authentic Roman Sauce.” 2005 Oxford Food Symposium
Grainger, Sally. Cooking Apicius.
Grocock, Christopher and Grainger, Sally. Apicius.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.