Sauce for Soft-Boiled Eggs (Apicius 7.17.3)

In ouis apalis: piper ligusticum nucleos infuses; suffundes mel acetum, liquamine temperabis.

Sauce for soft-boiled eggs: pepper, lovage, soaked pine nuts; pour on honey, vinegar, flavour with liquamen.

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

This is one of the earliest historic recipes I ever cooked, over 20 years ago (eek); I used the version from Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa’s A Taste of Ancient Rome, which is one book I would highly recommend as a beginner’s guide to ancient Roman food and cooking. This is a great recipe to serve in the first course of a feast – both the eggs and the sauce can be prepared well ahead of time.

Eggs were an important food in the ancient world – even city dwellers with a small yard could keep chickens, and hen eggs could be produced in large quantity. They were regarded as aphrodisiacs (Dalby, 2003, 126).

Ingredients

4 large eggs 2 tbs honey 1/2 tsp lovage seed
50g pine nuts 1 tsp fish sauce 1/2 tsp pepper
100mL wine vinegar

Method

  1. Dry fry the pine nuts over a medium heat until they start to turn golden. Keep stirring constantly. When they are golden, remove from the heat and soak in half the vinegar for at least 6 hours.
  2. Put the eggs into a pan of cold water, then put over a high heat and bring to the boil. As soon as the water comes to the boil, remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and leave it stand for 4 minutes.
  3. After 4 minutes, remove the eggs from the hot water and immediately plunge them into ice cold water. Leave them to cool completely.
  4. In a food processor or mortar and pestle, combine the soaked pine nuts, pepper and lovage seed, and process until the pine nuts have been crushed to the desired consistency (I like them still a bit chunky).
  5. Add the honey, the rest of the vinegar and the fish sauce to the pine nuts, and stir well to combine.
  6. Remove the eggs from the cold water and peel them, then slice each egg in half.
  7. Arrange the halved eggs on a plate, then pour over the pine nut sauce.

Notes

  • Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is a plant that appears frequently in Roman cooking. It has an extremely strong celery scent. Sally Grainger (2006, 24) and Patrick Faas (1994, 151) believe the seeds were used more frequently, as it is usually listed amongst the spices in Apicius. I feel either the leaves or the seed can be used, as they both have a similar taste, however the seed is probably more appropriate in this recipe. If lovage leaf or seed is unavailable, celery leaf or seed is a good substitute. I grew the lovage in my garden.
  • Liquamen is a fish sauce, probably thinner in texture than the better known garum. (Grainger, 2005).
  • This method of boiling eggs comes from Heston Blumenthal’s Heston at Home (p107). I find it avoids the problem of the eggs cracking in the water as can happen if they are put in hot water to begin with, or left in boiling water, and also ensures the egg does not overcook. If you prefer a less set yolk, leave them in the boiled water for less time.
  • Putting the eggs into cold water to cool does three things. First, it completely stops the cooking process so the yolk does not overcook and become powdery, and the white stays tender rather than becoming like rubber. Second, it allows the eggs to cool without that unattractive grey ring forming about the yolk. Finally, it makes the eggs easier to peel cleanly as the membrane surrounding the egg separates from the shell.
  • If you want to read more about the science behind the gentle cooking of eggs in their shell, check out Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, p 87-88.
  • It is much easier to peel an egg that is slightly older. As eggs age more air is absorbed into the shell, and pushes the egg slightly away from the shell. However, avoid really old eggs, as they don’t taste good, and have more chance of having the unattractive grey ring form about the yolk, even if you cook it gently.
  • To test the freshness of an egg, put the egg in a bowl full of water. If the egg lies on the bottom, it is very fresh. If the egg stands on its narrow point with the broader end sticking up in the water, it is less fresh but still fine to use, especially in a recipe such as this. If the egg floats, throw it away, as it is stale.
  • Both Sally Grainger (2006, 57) and Ilaria Giacosa (1994, 47) both suggest processing the pine nut sauce to a completely smooth paste. However, I prefer the sauce to still have a little texture – I think it looks more appealing to have diiferent textures in the sauce.

Eggs in Pine Nut Sauce

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.

Dalby, Andrew (2003). Food in the Ancient World.
Faas, Patrick (1994). Around the Roman Table.
Giacosa, Ilaria Gozzini (1994). A Taste of Ancient Rome.
Grainger, Sally (2005). “Towards an Authentic Roman Sauce.” 2005 Oxford Food Symposium
Grainger, Sally (2006). Cooking Apicius.
Grocock, Christopher and Grainger, Sally (2006). Apicius.
McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking.

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Apicius 8.6.10 – Parthian Lamb

hedum siue agnum Particum: mites in furnum; teres piper rutam cepam satureiam damascene enucleate laseris modicum uinum liquamen et oleum [uinum]. feruens colluitur in disco, ex aceto sumitur.
Apicius – De re coquinaria

Parthian kid or lamb:
Put it in the oven. Pound pepper, rue, onion, savory, stoned damsons, a little laser, wine, liquamen and oil. Pour lots of the boiling sauce over the meat on a serving dish. Eat it with some vinegar.

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

Sheep were common sacrificial animals, and were a common centrepiece for feasts. This recipe specifies lamb, which was a particularly expensive, luxurious choice, and only available in spring (Dalby, 2003, 300). The other option for the meat, kid, was also considered a delicacy, and would have been expensive, given goats were particularly prized for their milk. Slaughtering a young animal potentially meant forgoing years of production, hence the extra expense (Dalby, 2003, 160).

Ingredients

1 kg lamb roast 1 tbs costmary or feverfew 2 tbs savory 1/4 tsp asafoetida
125mL red wine 15mL fish sauce 50mL olive oil
100g stoned plums 1/2 tsp pepper 30mL wine vinegar

Method

  1. Put the lamb on a rack in a roasting tray, and rub with olive oil. Roast in a 180°C oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until the lamb reaches your preferred doneness.  Baste occasionally with the fat that is rendered from the lamb.
  2. Chop the onion and the costmary or feverfew finely. Strip the savory leaves from the stalks.
  3. Combine all the other ingredients except the vinegar in a mortar and pestle and pound to a smooth paste, or combine in a blender.
  4. Transfer the sauce to a saucepan, and bring to the boil over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally. Keep warm until the lamb is cooked, then return to the boil.
  5. Transfer the lamb to a serving dish, then pour the boiling sauce over the top.
  6. Just before serving, sprinkle the lamb and sauce with the vinegar.

Notes

  • The Parthian Empire was centred around north eastern Iran, and fought several wars with Rome before being conquered by the Persian Sassanids in 224AD. It was a major source of the spice asafoetida, which was used in place of Silphium. Dalby suggests the asafoetida was the source of the name “Parthian Lamb” (Dalby, 2003, 250).
  • Rue (Ruta graveolens) is a herb with a very bitter taste that was commonly used in Roman cooking. I have never used it in cooking, and never will, as it is mildly toxic and can give very bad blisters to people who are allergic, and can also induce abortions. I use feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) or costmary (Tanacetum balsamita, which also have quite bitter tastes, without being so dangerous. You will probably have to grow these yourself; if you can’t find them, use rocket or raddichio, though you will need more to get the same bitterness.
  • Savory (summer savory, Satureja hortensis, or winter savory, Satureja montana), as its name implies, has a powerful savory flavour. It is easy to grow and worth tracking down, but if you can’t find it, thyme is a reasonable substitute.
  • Liquamen is a fish sauce, probably thinner in texture than the better known garum. (Grainger, 2005).
  • Lasere, or silphium, was a spice that originated in north Africa and became extinct in the first century AD. After this, the Romans used asafoetida as a substitute. Asafoetida, when raw, has a powerful, unpleasant smell, and the flavour can overpower dishes. It can be found in Indian or Middle Eastern groceries, and is worth tracking down as there really is no substitute.

Parthian lamb closeup
This photo features lamb shanks. These are my go-to roasting cut, as they are easily portioned if cooking for just one or two people (an idea I have shamelessly nicked from Nigella Lawson). If using a more typical joint such as leg or shoulder, I recommend getting one already boned to make serving easier.

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.

Erebinthoi Knakosymmigeis (Saffron Chickpeas)

And then chickpeas marinated in saffron, plump in their tender youth. Athenaeus, The Deipnosophistae, trans. Mark Grant (1999, 142).

This is one chickpea dish where I thoroughly recommend using dried chickpeas only, as they take up the flavour of the saffron much better.

Ingredients

250g dried chickpeas 1L vegetable stock Pinch saffron threads

Method

  1. Soak the chickpeas for at least 12 hours in cold water, if possible changing the water after 6 hours. Then drain.
  2. Grind the saffron to a powder, then soak in boiling water.
  3. Put the saffron and vegetable stock in a pot, then bring to a boil. Add the chickpeas and simmer for at least an hour, or until the chickpeas are tender. If necessary, add more water or stock while they are cooking.
  4. Drain and serve hot or cold.

 

Saffron_Chickpeas

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.
Grant, Mark (1999). Roman Cookery

Apicius 3.11.2 – “Another Recipe for Boiled Beets” (Beets with Mustard Dressing)

aliter betas elixas: ex sinapi oleo modico et aceto meme inferuntur. Apicius 3.11.2

Another recipe for boiled beets: they are served nicely in a sauce of mustard, a little oil and vinegar.

This text and translation are taken from Sally Grainger and Christopher Grocock’s Apicius (2006) (p166, 167).

In general, when “beets” are mentioned in ancient texts, the leaves are being referred to rather than the roots, which were rarely eaten (Dalby, 2003, 51). However, I have chosen the beetroot bulbs here, as they resemble archery targets and thus are a good representation for Sagittarius, especially when paired with asparagus!

Ingredients

2 beetroots 15mL mustard
70mL extra virgin olive oil 15mL vinegar
 
1 bunch asparagus

Method

  1. Cut most of the leaves off the beetroot, but leave the base of the leaves and the tail intact. This stops much of the flavour being leeched out of the beets as they cook.
  2. Put the beets in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook, with the pot covered, until a knife inserted into the beet meets no resistance.
  3. Meanwhile, make the sauce – put the oil, vinegar and mustard in a jar and shake vigorously to combine the ingredients.
  4. Peel the beets as they are cooling, and slice finely.
  5. To prepare the asparagus, snap the woody base off the end of the asparagus and put in a pan of boiling water. Cook for around a minute.
  6. Arrange the asparagus in the middle of a platter, and then put the beets around the outside. Pour the mustard sauce over the beets.

Asparagus_and_Beetroot

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.
Dalby, Andrew (2003). Food in the Ancient World.
Grocock, Christopher and Grainger, Sally (2006). Apicius.

Apicius 6.2.6 – “Another Recipe for Boiled Crane or Duck” (Green Sauce for Duck)


aliter in grue uel anate elixa: piper ligusticum apii semen erucam et coriandrum mentam careotam; mel acetum liquamen defritum et sinape. idem faciet et [si] in [caccabo] assas.
Apicius – De re coquinaria

Another recipe for boiled crane or duck
Pepper, lovage, celery seed, rocket and coriander, mint, date, honey, vinegar, liquamen, defrutum and mustard. It is equally suitable for roast [or grilled] (birds).

This text and translation are taken from Sally Grainger and Christopher Grocock’s Apicius (2006) (p224-225).

Like many recipes in Apicius, this recipe is just a list of ingredients. Because this can be served with roasted or grilled birds (Grocock and Grainger, 2006, 225), I have interpreted it as a sauce.

Ingredients

3 tbs rocket 15mL wine vinegar 1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbs coriander 15mL fish sauce 1/2 tsp celery seed
2 tbs mint 15mL vino cotto 30mL honey
40g dates 15mL mustard 1 tbs lovage

Method

  1. Finely chop all the herbs.
  2. Finely grind all the
  3. In a mortar and pestle, pound the dates to a paste.
  4. Combine all the other ingredients in the mortar and pestle and combine well into a sauce.
  5. You can also combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulverise.
  6. Serve at room temperature.

Notes

  • 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).
  • Careonum is thought to be a syrupy sauce made from boiling down the must left over from wine making (Grainger 2006, 30). This is similar to the modern vino cotto, which I use as a substitute.

Green Sauce for Duck

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.

Grainger, Sally. “Towards an Authentic Roman Sauce.” 2005 Oxford Food Symposium
Grainger, Sally. Cooking Apicius.
Grocock, Christopher and Grainger, Sally. Apicius.

Apicius 2.1.7 and 2.2.4 – Chicken Faggots with Sauce

esicia omentata
pulpam concisam teres cum medulla siliginei in uino infusa; piper, liquamen; si uelis, et bacam mirta extenteratam simul conteres, pusilla esicia formabis intus nucleis et pipere positis; inoluta omento subassabis cum caroeno.
Apicius 2.1.7 (Grocott and Grainger, 2006, 148)

Forcemeat Faggots
You pound chopped meat with fresh white breadcrumbs soaked in wine, with pepper and liquamen; if you wish, you pound crushed myrtle berries with them. You shape the faggots with pine nuts and pepper placed inside. Wrap them in caul fat and grill or roast them with caroenum.

2.2.4 aliter de pullo
piperis grana XXX conteres, mittis liquaminis optimi calicem, careni tantundem, aquae undecim mittes et ad uaporem ignis pones.
Apicius 2.1.7 (Grocott and Grainger, 2006, 150)

Another Sauce for Chicken Forcemeat
pound 30 grains of pepper, add a cup of best quality liquamen, the same amount of caroenum and 11 cups of water and put it over the fire.

Although the faggot recipe does not specify a meat, the chicken goes well with the recipe and has the sauce recipe. I tried the recipe with the myrtle berries but I and my taste testers found the taste far too bitter even though we only added a very small amount. We tried the currants instead and found them an excellent addition.

Ingredients – Chicken Faggots

500g chicken mince 30mL fish sauce 1/2 tsp pepper, finely ground.
120g bread crumbs 30mL vino cotto 60g pine nuts, toasted
60mL white wine Optional: 60g currants Caul fat

Ingredients – Sauce

30mL vino cotto 30mL fish sauce
100mL water 1/2 tsp pepper

Method

  1. To make the sauce, grind the pepper finely and combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat to just boiling, then remove from the heat and keep warm.
  2. To make the faggots, combine the bread crumbs and the wine and soak for at least an hour.
  3. Roughly crush the pine nuts in a mortar and pestle, and combine with the pepper.
  4. Combine the chicken mince, wine soaked bread crumbs and fish sauce and currants if using.
  5. Separate the chicken mixture into six portions and shape each into patties. Put a small amount of the pine nut and pepper mix into the middle of each and fold the mince over so the pine nuts and pepper are concealed in the middle.
  6. Wrap each chicken patty in a small piece of caul fat, making sure the fold in the caul fat is not too thick.
  7. Grill the chicken patties, brushing them with the vino cotto as they cook.
  8. Serve immediately with the sauce.

Notes

  • Caul fat is a lacy membrane that surrounds the internal organs of animals such as pigs and cows. It helps to bind the chicken mix together and keep it moist while cooking. You should be able to order it from most butchers – look for one that makes their own sausages and charcuterie.

    Caul fat

  • Liquamen is a fish sauce, probably thinner in texture than the better known garum. (Grainger, 2005).
  • Careonum is thought to be a syrupy sauce made from boiling down the must left over from wine making (Grainger 2006, 31). This is similar to the modern vino cotto, which I use as a substitute.
  • The unit of measure used in the sauce, the calix indicates a wine cup but it is unknown how big this was (Grocock and Grainger, 2006, 84).

P5020029

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.
 
Grainger, Sally (2005). “Towards an Authentic Roman Sauce.” 2005 Oxford Food Symposium
Grainger, Sally (2006). Cooking Apicius.
Grocock, Christopher and Grainger, Sally (2006). Apicius.

Apicius 8.6.8 – Apician Rare Lamb


hedus siue agnus crudus: oleo piper fricabis et asparges fores salum purum multo cum coriandri semen. in furnum mittis, assatum inferes.
Apicius – De re coquinaria

Rare lamb or kid
Rub with oil and pepper, and sprinkle plenty of pure salt and coriander seed all over the outside.  Put in the oven.  Serve roasted

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

Ingredients

1 kg boned lamb roast 20g coriander seed
75 mL extra virgin olive oil 5g pepper
Salt

Method

  1. Rub the lamb liberally with the olive oil and pepper.
  2. Crush the coriander seed and press into the lamb with the salt.
  3. Roast the lamb, and baste while roasting.

Apician_Lamb

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.
 
Grocock, Christopher and Grainger, Sally. Apicius. Totnes, 2006.