Roman Meats

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So this recipe is a bit of history copulation of several research papers I’ve done in the past and a really good recipe that makes use of ALL the research done.  If you’ve read the papers, just skip to the recipe.

Roman Cooking and making of a “Peacock” Pie


Honorable Lady Sosha Lyon’s O’Rourke



Intro to Roman Cooking:

Roman cooking spans several centuries with a rich collection of recipes.  Manuscripts depicting the Roman table are rare due to the age, delicacy of these scrolls and the plundering of the Roman Empire.  However there have been a few manuscripts and letters that have survived and translated that bring us a better understanding of what a Roman table is like, from dinning styles and dishes, to foods and sumptuary laws.  (Grant, Vehling)


Joan Liversidge writes in The Roman Cookery book,  that most of what is known in modern day about the Roman kitchen comes from ruins with the best preserved kitchens to have been from the excavation from Pompeii that were in use during the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

“…the hearth, which consists of a raised platform of masonry faced on top with tiles, sometimes edged with a curb, and with a coating of opus singiunum  (paint?) along the front. Arched openings in the front of the platform nearer the floor-level lead to fuel bins that were roughly constructed of rubble and tile.  Arrangements for providing water for cooking and washing-up are also sometimes found, as are the supports for the stone or wooden tables used for the preparation of food.” (Flower, pg. 29)

This description leads one to think that the more wealthy homes had better cooking accommodations i.e. raised platforms, wash areas and stone tables while the poor kitchens did without these amenities and used buckets for washing and cheap wood tables. (Flower, pp. 32, 33)


Here is a Roman kitchen with the original counters and murals.  This kitchen is in the Teton Village of Italy and still in use.  The counters are marble with the original brick walls, cobble stone floors and wood storage areas.  This looks huge!  And definitely makes me envious of the cooks who worked in such a lovely kitchen.

There were several methods for cooking in a Roman house.  The stove one part of a roman kitchen called a focus, square structure usually between 1.10 cm and 1.30 cm high and 1.20 m deep.  Some stoves were smaller or larger but this seemed to be the average sized compiled from the intact stoves of Pompeii. (Faas, pp. 131)  Faas and Flowers discuss that the stove had various ways to cook, either with high flames for searing or roasting of animals.  If the animal was small enough then whole such as rabbit, kid or piglet but if the focus was large enough goat, pig, deer might be added to the list of whole animal.

Another type of cooking structure found in the rubble of Pompeii, per, seemed to be smaller in then the focus. These were made of rubble and tiles in the form of beehives, low to the ground.   There was an opening in the front for fuel with a drought for air.  These ovens could use both wood or charcoal depending on the dish(es) brought for preparation.  In the excavation of Pompeii, small rectangular ovens were discovered standing on the hearth of a kitchen in the House of Dioscuri.  One theory is that these small nonstandard ovens were used for pastries as a pastry mould was found near.  The pastry dishes were not described, unfortunately.

The oven, not to be confused with a stove, called a furnus or a fronax.  This was a square or dome-shaped hollow made from brick stone.  The floor of the oven was laid with granite.  The exception to this rule were those oven floors that were lined with lava.  (Faas, pp. 132.)

Another method was to cook directly over a fire on spits called veru (Faas, pp. 131) or in coals on fire pits or “ovens”, this is talked about by Liversidge, and to slightly less extent Grant.  They both speak, sometimes in great detail, on how much of the Roman cooking was done on iron tripods and gridirons (referred to by Apicius as craticula) over burning charcoal on the raised hearths.

Spits were used for larger animals i.e. boar which were roasted over fire.   Some recipes are specific on how dishes are to be cooked with the comments of “Brown it’s fat on a glowing hot brazier” (cooking dish suspended over coals) while another dish is “…heated in a brass vessel over a fire of dry sticks”. (Flower, pg. 31) Even though the Romans mainly used iron tripods, some dishes were to be placed directly into the ashes or coals.

Smoke free charcoal seems to have been the preferred heating method (Faas, pp. 130) though wood was used not just for heating but also for flavoring as some dishes are referred to as being smoked.

In today’s kitchen a mortar and pestle is used more decoratively then for actual practicality.  In Roman times, according to Faas, the mortar held a spot of extreme importance.  Spices, herbs, meat and emulsifying were all accomplished in this one kitchen utensil.  The theory fis that spices were used first (as they were dry) then working through progressively wetter ingredients.  The implication being that there was only one pestle per kitchen in use.

I am not sure I completely agree with this idea.  I can see a Roman house hold having a smaller mortar used for spices and emulsifying and a larger pestle used for vegetables and meat, but I cannot see that only one pestle per household could accomplish all this for one meal.  The logistics of both size and quantity of ingredients used seem to imply that more than one, not just one large or even medium sized pestle, would be needed.

I have not seen any mention of drawers being used or even available in the kitchen during this time, while shelves and hooks seem to be the most commonly mentioned methods of storing.  A well-stocked kitchen could include, the ubiquitous knife or knives and “…choppers, meat forks, soup spoons, sieves, graters, spits, tongs, cheese-slicers, nutcrackers, measuring jugs, pate moulds…” (Faas, 132).  The pots and pans were just as numerous as the slicing and dicing accoutrements.  There were stewing pots, pultarius, simmering pots, caccaubs, shallow pans, padella, oval dishes, patina, and square dishes called angulis.  (Faas, pp. 133, 134)  The pans and pots could be made from either pottery or metal (Flower, pp. 32, 33) depending on the economic status of the individual house hold as seen in excavations.  A well-stocked Roman kitchen could rival that of any gourmet kitchen in modern times.

Period Roman Cooking vs. Modern Roman Cooking:

For true Roman cooking I would need stove made from cement or clay and an oven lined with granite. Various pots, pans, and utensils made from wood, clay, or metal.  I would use either smokeless charcoal or wood.  If my house were truly well to do I would have kitchen slaves to do the chopping and grinding for a meal preparation as well as serving once all the food had been prepared.  If I were really well to do, I would have a cook to do all my cooking for me.

Unfortunately, modern times mean a slightly more modern approach.  My oven is gas lit, needing neither wood nor charcoal.  My spoons are made of wood (spoons and serving utensils) while my pots are made of clay.  These pots are lead free and not done in the period style unfortunately.  They are readily available but not on the same level as those in period.  Clay pots and utensils seem, from various archeological digs, to be as prevalent as the modern paper plate or plastic spoons.  My pans are made of metal, just not copper lined with tin.

I do own a mortar and pestle for grinding spices though I do not grind nearly as many spices as a Roman household would.  I do buy my some spices pre-ground.  I am sure that there were merchants who had these pre-ground spices on hand for pre mixed seasonings, though bulk spices would be better for a fresher stronger taste.  This is just my observation on spice tasting and the variety of cooking done at home. Not all of my vegetables come from my garden nor do I have a hive for honey.  That I can even grow even a few vegetables to cook with is a modern luxury instead of a necessity.  My wheat for bread is ground for me and is usually very pure wheat flour instead of having some traces of other flours, as a wheat mill was not cleaned between grinds in period.

I do not own chickens for eggs or meat on the table.  Cows are right out due to city ordinances.  I have hopes to own a few chickens at some point or even rabbits but for now I have to rely on knowing those who raise rabbits for meat then sell to me and are willing to raise chickens ducks purchased by me to split at slaughter time.

Modern times have made meat farms economically feasible while in period farms and animal husbandry were very dependent on weather conditions for growth and survivability.  This makes meat inexpensive and choice easily available instead of the poorest subsisting on a crust of bread, the less poor on vegetables and the tongue of a sheep or cow, possibly just cocks combs for protein. The wealthier could afford sheep forelegs or even tripe, perhaps even the taste of the fatty brisket meat.  The very wealthiest could afford the prime cuts along with delicacies of humming bird tongue and peacock.  The wealthier a Roman was, the better stocked with both utensils and ingredients their kitchen was.  Modern times have given even the poorest person, at least in first world countries, access to cheap meat, breads and vegetables not only from their country of origin but from around the world.

 Dinning Styles:

Faas (pp. 70-72) lists five different styles of dining.  These styles are suggested from both frescos and surviving letters or notations in manuscripts.

The first style is that of a buffet, brought in by servants/slaves while each guest helped themselves to a dish or dishes from artfully arranged works of edible art.  Another style of dining is in which each guest is brought a plate with portions already cut and arranged.  We see this today in a restaurant.

The following letter highlights the complaint against this style thought.

“…Hagias said: “We invite one another out for dinner, it seems to me, not so much for the sake of eating and drinking, but in order to eat and drink together.  Such rationing is unsociable…’ (Plut. 642/Faas 71)

The next style of dinning would be the roast.  The roast was brought in whole and carved with the guests helping themselves.  Though my own thoughts are that this would be more of a center piece, for any of the listed “Dinning Styles” then it’s own as each person would still either help themselves or have a slave bringing them choice tidbits.

The fourth style of dining is said to be seen on frescos In which each dinner is given their own table while reclining.  Each table would look the same as the others. Each table had a slave accompanying for refilling of plate or bowl.


The Athenian way of dining, the fifth style, is thought to be a little of all four above. Each person having their own set of delicacies, not a buffet but not quantified by one plate, while a central themed roast or spectacular dish displayed and carved for a dinner’s delight.  (Faas, pp.70)

From this research every region had their own style of eating.  Not always a happy situation but one in which the host could sometimes be swayed for a more appealing style.


The utensils excavated range the gamete of common pottery to iron or bronze with some being made of more precious metals.  This is true of all cooking utensils and most of the spoons, knives etc.  One can imagine that wooden spoons were also used but probably did not survive being preserved as did the metal and pottery items.  The handles were made of bronze, wood or bone. (Flower, pp. 32)

Apicius in one comment to a cook tells them to take a clean pan or pot which is presumed to be pottery even though the word patella (bronze pan or pot) is used.  This is assumed due to the readily available and inexpensiveness of pottery pot or pan.  At this point in history a bronze pots would be cost prohibitive to replace regularly while a pottery pan is very inexpensive.  Cleaning of the different utensils is described as sea or dessert sand for bronze while pottery would need soap.  Once the course pottery dishes were so caked with foods as to be unusable a new pan or pot could be gotten relatively quickly for very little.  Bronze pots from several excavation sites have been found with bronze patches and show hard use. (Flower, pp. 17, 27, 29, 32 ,33)

The fretale or sartago refer to a frying pan type of utensil that is identified with certainty, while all other utensils, not being labeled are not so easily identifiable per Liversidge’s commentary.  Educated guesses can be made to the names of different types of vessels with the discoveries made from the Pompeii excavations as well as the Roman legionary fortress at Newstead.  (Flower, pp. 32)

An interesting notation is that cauldrons or cook pots were passed to others.  From one excavation site of a Roman military camp one cauldron has inscriptions carved on the side.  These inscriptions are the name of the first owner “the first century of Attilius Severus” then the cauldron was passed on to the century of Aprilis. (Flower, pg. 33)  No reason is stated or guessed at the reason for the change in ownership.  In a regular household there is no mention if these pots and pans were considered part of a dowry or if the eldest son inherited.  There is an assumption that bronze pots and pans would be passed down to family members though.

There was a style of utensils and dishes thought to be in the Athenian style of eating due to their size and utilization.  Silver trays, tripods with plates, very small bowls and egg cups.  A quote from one dinner’s letter (Ath, 132) suggest that these items were for individual eating, on serving trays with their own tables, then either reclining and being served or the style of a buffed.

“…The cook puts down a try with five little plates on it.  One holds some garlic, the next two sea urchins.  Yet another contains a sweet cake, or tell little shellfish, and finally a piece of sturgeon…  (Faas, pp72)

This dinner’s commentary actually is against being served on small plates as it seemed to do no more than smear his lips not fill his belly.  Possibly even the lack of camaraderie with each their own table.


The list of foods available to the Romans is extensive, with both cultivation and the vast trading routes available.  Very little was not attainable, albeit sometimes costly, in the Roman market places.  It is noted that citrus was not available, other than lemons and citrons, as oranges were not introduced until the tenth century by the Arabs, possibly about the same time as eggplant.  (Giacosa, pp. 12)      Citrons were prized for their skins for the extreme smell of citrus but not for their very dry fruit. (

Examples of some items imported were peaches were imported from Persia, malum persicum, apricots, malum aremniacum or praecox or praecoquium, from Armenia.  Dates were imported from Ethiopia.  Home grown items included figs, grapes, watermelon, muskmelon, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pine nuts. (Giacosa, pg. 14).

Vegetables were enjoyed, with a profusion of choices available, both fresh and preserved.  (Grant, pp. 21)  Meat, though readily available, as were fish of all varieties, these were expensive items.

“The emperor Diocletian published his Decree on Maximum Prices in an attempt to stop the rampant inflation that was ruining the economy…have the merit of showing the comparative prices of various foodstuffs.  Twelve denarii would buy a pound of pork, venison or best quality freshwater fish.” (Grant, pg. 20).

The common Romans seemed to have a very bread heavy diet with fruit and vegetables on the side with cheese and eggs for protein.  These breads included white and black bread (based on the type of flour used).  There was also leavened bread and flat breads (noted used by sailors but not common fare to any other population stratus of Roman households).  Flavored breads incorporated different seeds such as poppy, anise, fennel, celery and caraway seeds. (Giacosa, pg. 16) Those with expansive purses could indulge in the wider variety of culinary experiences.

There was a book written on vegetarianism by Plutarch, called On the Eating of Meat.  Plutarch referenced many other references that did not include meat in the recipes.  It is unknown if these books were for just the common man or for aristocrats as well. (Grant, pg 20)

Pasta, tomatoes, butter and corn were not used or available till much later.  Butter, while known, was not used extensively though cheese was very popular and common with goat and sheep milk cheeses being the main types found in the market place.  (Giacosa, pg. 13).  Some cow cheese probably found their way into the market place but would have been seen as a novelty item not a staple.

An interesting note on garum, a fish sauce used by the Romans, which is mentioned in every translation of Roman cookbook (Grant, Flower, Apicus, Giacosa, Faas); the recipes and theories about the different ways to make this liquid seasoning are varied while the use was much like ketchup is today.  Used sparingly garum does not over power merely adding a hint of something exotic and a slightly salty note to a dish.  The best bet, unless one wanted to spend 2-3 months in the hot summer sun turning urns with fish bones and fish guts with other spices, is to use a store bought fish sauce found in oriental markets.          

Food Exceptions and substitutions:

Grant gives the quote:

“Roman cooks were used to substituting ingredients, as Apicius’ illustrations show: ‘To which you should add the reduced juice of quinces, further reduced to the consistency of honey by exposure to a blazing sun.  If you do not have reduced quince juice, you should use the reduced juice of dried figs, which the Roman’s call “colour”.’ Anthimus was also familiar with the problem of availability: ‘Although cucumbers at present cannot be procured here, when they are available the seeds that are inside them may be eaten.’” (pg. 27)

In cooking Roman recipes’ substitution is not only expected but in some cases encouraged to use different ingredients, after noting down the original translations, for the most part in SCA redactions.  Cooks may need to use variations, due to either the lack of availability or because a better period substitute could be used i.e. goat cheese as opposed to cheddar cheese.

The Romans were exceptional cooks in the art of preparing dishes that disguise the original ingredients i.e. faux anchovy pie where no anchovies are present.  One comment by Platus’ Pseudolus (I, 810 ff.) was:

“I don’t season a dinner the way other cooks do, who serve you up whole pickled meadows in their patinae – men who make cows their messmates, who thrust herbs at you, then proceed to season these herbs with other herbs…when they season their dinners they don’t use condiments for seasoning, but screech-owls, which eat out the intestines of the guests alive.”  (Flower, pg. 29)

While Platus was not so into disguising what his food was about, it seems that the main cooking in Roman for the more elegant tables was bent on disguising flavors with more flavor of unusual herbs.




Peacock Pie:

“Grind chopped meat with the center of fine white bread that has been soaked in wine.  Grind together pepper, garum and pitted myrtle berries if desired.  Form small patties, putting in pine nuts and pepper.  Wrap in omentum and cook slowly in caroenum.”  (Giacosa, pp. 90)

The ground meat patties of peacock have first place, if they are fried so that they remain tender… (Apicius, 54/Giacosa, pp. 90).

On a side note, the peacock was so expensive (roughly 50 denarii a bird) that some peacocks were stripped of their skin then cooked (roasted) in aromatic resinous substances until the meat was effectively mummified. Afterwards it was redressed and reserved at another banquet later that week or month without fear of rotting. (Toussaint-Samat, pp. 38)

This recipe, for ground patties, was probably used for peahens past their reproductive cycle, and at 50 denarii per bird, this would still be a very expensive and luxuriant dish to serve to nobility and emperors.

Romans were also very fond of pork.  Going so far as to breed a special type of pig just for the best dining experience possible. The Roman Empire had two types of pigs; the normal mast fed opportunistic type of pig that was considered tasty with long legs and a narrow body

and a second heavier meatier fatter pig that was white with short legs and round body with heavily marbled meat.

In the second relief, note the rounded shoulders and heavy jowls of the pig in the lower right portion.  This pig was the product of selective breeding and happy feeding.  No opportunistic boars need apply for the stud job on this farm!

There were a few in Rome who commented on the desirable qualities for pig and how to feed them.

Columella advised “Not to rely on acorn foraging alone but to make use of legumes for fattening as well.  He also advised breeding for a new type of pig more suitable for rapid weight gain than for ranging in the woods. “Pigs should be sought whose bodies are exceedingly wide, but squarish rather than long or round, with protruding belly and large rump rather than tall legs or hooves, a broad glandulous neck, and a short upturned snout.” (Carlton)

However when the Roman Empire fell, this pig type was lost as farms were thrown into chaos.  The mast fed pigs from feral stock could outrun the hungry wolf or human while the shorter fatter pig, not so much.  Remember it’s not that a pig has to be the fastest just faster than the slowest…and the slowest were always eaten.

Then there is the issue of the Roman chicken.  Lots to discuss but we’re only going to cover a couple of basic feathered facts.  Columella next discusses the breeding habits of chickens as well as cross breeding types for the best in both eating and temperament. The breeds Tanagrian, Rhodic, Chalkidic and Median (Melian) should only be used for cockfighting while the native Roman chickens either by themselves or hens crossed with Greek cocks.   These breeds do not show up in modern times; however the breed names for these period chickens seem to be based on the origin city or region and not upon any specific type or defining characteristic.  And example would be Tanagrian, which was a Greek district between Thebes and Chalcis. (UChicago)



1 peacock      1lb ground pork  1 cup ground bread crumbs        1 tsp ground pepper

½ red wine (pinot)     1 tsb fish sauce        ½ cup pine nuts          ½ lb bacon strips



Originally when I started making this dish, my thought was to make a subtlety using the main meat filling (using ground pork instead of duck or peacock) and a peacock as the main meat covering under a butter crust.

I can hear you now…that’s not the period recipe!!  You’re right.  To a point.  Remember this quote earlier…

“Roman cooks were used to substituting ingredients, as Apicius’ illustrations show: ‘To which you should add the reduced juice of quinces, further reduced to the consistency of honey by exposure to a blazing sun.  If you do not have reduced quince juice, you should use the reduced juice of dried figs, which the Roman’s call “colour”.’ Anthimus was also familiar with the problem of availability: ‘Although cucumbers at present cannot be procured here, when they are available the seeds that are inside them may be eaten.’” (pg. 27)

Yes…I made sure to include this about Roman’s and their love for changing things up.  I’m changing things up.

First you start with a peacock.

This is a peahen.  A female pea.  I was out of cock.

The next step is to start de-feathering the bird.

Now here is where things get interesting.  In my first inception of this dish, the peahen was deboned.

The peahen meat and skin is put over the pork mixture.

Pork mixture?  Oh, right, forgot to add a step.  Take all the other ingredients other than the peahen…

Make a tasty mess.

Cover this with bacon.

Drape the ground pork mixture with peahen and wrap with in bacon.


So as you can see…I don’t really have a subtlety, I have a football.  This form really wasn’t acceptable.  In fact this is driving me up the wall.  Think Redneck Girlfriend saying “Oh HELL no!” when she finds out the boyfriend is buying the cheap beer and spending the night with his boys.  That is the level of unacceptable this is.  Just…no!

So that leaves me with peahen wrapped around tasty pork goodness.  So I made a pie.  A tasty tasty butter crust wrapped pie.

However that is not the pie being served today.  Why not?! You ask.  That is a very good question!  And the answer is…I ran out of peahen and no cocks were available.  So I had to switch to the other white meat. Chicken.

So all the steps are the same, except using a debone chicken instead.  Chicken is easier to acquire unless you have a peahen supplier.  And remember, Romans used other food to mimic the dish they were claiming to serve!  Its period to substitute and that is what we are doing today.

Here you’ll note the use of dates along the rim of the pie.  My pork wrapped chicken over pork pie tastiness pulled away from the butter crust forming this unseemly empty space.  To hide that slight cooking issue, I used dates to stuff the crust keeping the viewing pleasure.



Apicius, (1977). Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome; Edited and Translated by Joseph Dommers Veling. Dover publication.

Apicus.  (1958). The Roman Cookery Book. Translated by B. Flower and E. Rosenbaum. Harrap London

Faas, P., (1994). Around the Roman Table. University of Chicago Press.

Giacosa, I., (1992). A Taste of Ancient Rome; by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa, Translated by Anna Herklotz. University of Chicago Press.

Grant., M. (1999). Roman Cookery, Bristish Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data.

The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570).  Translation by Scully. T., (2008). The Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library.

Toussaint-Samat, M., (1992). History of Food. Barnes & Nobles



March 27, 2017 | No comments

As promised a MUCH better fish dish.  Yes I am on a fish kick, thank you for noticing.  Unfortunately modern day dishes seem to concentrate on meat, lots and lots of red meat to be specific or cheap chicken meat.  Period food was a bit of everything and a lot of modern day “Period” cooks forget to add fish dishes.  So here is a Roman fish dish.  Really liking these Roman fishes.

Piscium in Coriandri Crustarum

(Fish in Coriander Crust)


Prepare the fish carefully, put in a mortar salt and corander see, crush finely, roll the fish in it, put in a backing dish, cover, seal, bake in the bread oven. When cooked remove, season with very sharp vinegar and serve. (Ap 10, 1.4/Dalby & Grainger pp. 65


1lb fish (I used Atlantic Cod)

2 Tbs coriander

1 Tbs salt (Sea salt is very good here)

Balsamic vinegar


Gather up your ingredients.  Three of them to start.

150322 037

This is a very simple and fantastic fish dish. The fish was already skinned and deboned. I personally would prefer the skin but that’s how it came.

Take the coriander and the salt mixe them together and pour onto a flat plat. Use a sea salt. Do NOT use iodized salt. The iodized salt has a flat metallic taste that will take away from the fish (and most any dish). Dredge the fish in the mix on both sides. Very easy

150322 038

Place the fish in a baking dish.

150322 040

I used a bit of olive oil on the bottom of the dish to help with the removal of the cooked fished once finished, even though the recipe didn’t say. I think this is just a basic step every cook should know or do (my opinion here). Place in over till done 15-20 minutes and serve.


150322 052 My serving skills from pan to plate were not up to the task on this, so there are pieces instead of one smooth savory fish fillet.  Do not let that fool you!  This dish is the fish dish if you like coriander and salt.  Personally, I am tempted to add avocado slices on the side just for the creamy compliment the flavor would add.  Enjoy!

April 2, 2015 | No comments

Having a little bit of time on hand, I decided I wanted to try something new…again.  I haven’t done a lot of Roman lately so back to Rome for their tasty pork recipes.  I am going to suggest either a good ciabatta type of bread or jasmine rice to help sop up the very rich sauce.

Ius in Aprum Elixum: Sauce for Boiled Boar

 Roman and Pine Nut pork 010


Pepper, lovage, cumin, silphium, oregano, pine nuts date, honey, mustard, vinegar, liquamen, and oil. (Apicius, pp. 263/translated by Cocock $ Grainger)


2 lbs. pork butt

1 ts.p ground cumin and ground pepper

2 Tbs. fresh chopped oregano

2 C. sweet red wine

1 C. pitted and chopped dates

1 Tsp mustard (stone ground or Dijon)

1/3 C. balsamic vinegar

1/2 C. olive oil

1/2 C. honey

1/2 tsp. fish sauce


This recipe is for a much gamier cut of pork than we have available in the stores today. Our normal pork butt or shoulder is a bit fattier and tender then period cuts of boar would be.


Roman and Pine Nut pork 007

I choice not to boil the meat but I did decide to use a slow cooker for this recipe. (My oven being broken the biggest reason).

If this were to be done in period, the meat could be slow cooked in the ingredients or roast the meat and combine the ingredients to make a sauce to be cooked down in which the meat can be dipped into.  As in Rome, mix it up!  No recipe was ever written in stone in Rome.  The could make a sonnet recipe into an epic cookbook or a cookbook into three lines.  Enjoy playing with this even if nothing more then making the sauce to dip pork chops into.

Gather all the ingredients together.


Roman and Pine Nut pork 001           Ignore the orange.  It wasn’t in the recipe, just making a cameo before breakfast!

Throw everything but the oregano (the green stuff) and the dates into the crock pot or what ever pot you are cooking with.  Pit the dates.  Then chop the oregano and dates roughly.


Roman and Pine Nut pork 005


Throw these into the crock pot, then added the 2 lbs. of pork butt.

Roman and Pine Nut pork 009


As usual the mixing and stirring doesn’t look like much.  Give the dish a few hours until the pork is fork tender.  Then you’ll be doing nothing but licking your lips.

The sauce will be nice nice and thick after a few hours.  If you want to make sauce even thicker, take the meat from the crock pot and put aside.  Remember it’s fork tender so treat it gently.  Then pour the sauce into another pot and slowly simmer till reduced by 40%.  You want to balance a good dipping/soaking sauce with butter knife cutting sludge.


Roman and Pine Nut pork Spices

There wasn’t a lot of leftovers, but the little that remained was wrapped in home made tortillas (any fried flat bread will do) and consumed the next morning.  Still fork tender and rich in flavor.

January 21, 2015 | No comments

This dish is one I have wanted to try for a very long time, not that I have a thing for kidneys, it’s just that there are so very few edible dishes that involve kidneys or testicles out there.  And lets face it, the Romans knew how to cook anything and make it taste divine!

kidney out of oven cooked

Renes (Grilled Kidney)


Grilled kidneys are made as follows: They are cut down the middle to spread them out, and seasoned with ground pepper, pine kernals and very finely chopped coriander and ground fennel seed.  Then the kidneys are closed up, sewn together, wrapped in caul, parboiled in oil and fish sauce, and then baked in a crock or on a grill.  (apicius 7,8/Dalby, pp. 111)

Lumbi et Renes (Testicles and Kidneys)



They are opened up into two parts and stretched out, and ground pepper, pine nuts, finely chopped coriander and pounded fennel seed are sprinkled on them.  Then the testicles are closed up again and sewn together and wrapped in caul, and in this state they are fried in oil and liquamen and then roasted in clibanus or on a gridiron. (Apicius/Grocock, pp. 249)


1 package of kidneys

5 slices of bacon (preferably thick cut)

1/4 C pine nuts

1 tbs coriander and fennel seeds

1/2 tsp fish sauce



Per usual gather all the ingredients into one area.

kidney ingredients

Here we are!  Everything looks good…the kidneys are a little raw and need to be fiddled with.  So slice the kidneys down the middle and remove any fat globules or veins still attached.

devining raw kidneyHere you can see one that has been cleaned and a second one that is need of cleaning out.  Sort of like the before and after pictures.  These are goat kidneys, so they are fairly small.  Calf or cow kidneys are HUGE!  Lots more room to work in.  For a cow kidney you’ll want to devein them just the way you would a goat kidney and possibly cut the cow kidneys into much smaller pieces.  This is an appetizer/finger food type of dish.  Very rich and very yummy but a little goes a long way.

Next we add the spices to the pine nuts.

pine nut and spicesAfter the pine nuts and spices have been added together, stuff what you can into a deveined kidney.  Roughly a tbs.

pine nut stuffed raw kidneyThen wrap it in bacon.  If you have caul fat (the fat around organ meats) use that.  If you do not have access to caul fat use bacon.  Bacon makes everything better!

raw wrapped kidneyThen we start to fey this up.  Now I have added the fish sauce to the oil and heated that up.

oil and fish sauce

Then we add the kidney(es)

frying up kidneyAs you will notice I am only cooking one kidney.  I’m the only one in my house who likes organ meats so I didn’t think more then one would be appreciated.  Not to worry!  The other kidneys went into a really tasty organ meat pie.  Don’t judge, just try it!

So after I cooked this on both sides for about 3 minutes each, I place the kidney into a baking dish to cook another 20 minutes.

kidney in dish going into ovenWhen I was doing this, I almost decided to skip this step, figuring it had cooked enough.  Do NOT skip the second round of cooking.  This helps to meld all the flavors into one taste sensation.

kidney out of oven cookedThis was the final end product of a perfectly stuffed, wrapped, fried and baked kidney.  It was very tasty!  I do recommend these if you are having friends over and want to give them an unusual treat.

January 29, 2014 | No comments

Ham and Fig Pie


Boil the ham with a large number of dried figs and 3 bay leaves.  Remove the skin and make diagonal incisions into the meat.  Pour in honey.  Then make a dough of oil and flour and wrap the ham in it.  Take it out of the oven when the dough is cooked and serve.

(Giacosa, pp. 96-97)


2 lb’s pork                   3 bay leaves                 3 C dried figs

½ C honey

Pie Crust


2 C wine  (or more to cover pork)


Everything is gathered close to the stove after a quick trip to the garden for bay leaves.

pork figs wine bay leafs

I then decide I want to be more Roman then the recipe calls for.  I decide to boil the pork meat in wine/water mixture for a more depth in flavor.

wine w bruised bay leaves

The wine used is a sweet red.  In period this could have been a natural sweet red or a red wine in which honey was added to. (Giacosa/Faas)

Once the bay leaves have been bruised and dropped into the wine, I add the figs pork and honey for a long slow cooking.  I like to simmer this for 1.5 -2 hours for a very tender bit of pork.  You can eat this after an hour if you just can’t wait.

Pork figs in wine in pot

Once the pork has been thoroughly cooked, the pork and fig in wine dish can be served as is OR wrapped in a pastry.  If you go with serving this as a meat and fig dish After the pork is cooked, the meat is pulled from the pot then set on the cutting board.

I have done both. However I have to say my favorite is pork and fig in a pastry shell.  So again I got a bit creative.  This is an oil based pastry shell.  Since doing this recipe I’ve run into a butter pastry crust that I think is so much better.  The crust though is up to the cook.  Use a crust you like and run with it.

oil dough

Here I am using a dish that has indentations at the bottom for the pastry shells.  The recipe actually calls for making a wrapped almost modern day pastie or pastry pocket.  For display purposes I wanted some thing that would show the individual ingredients in each pastry shell.  So I took the pastry and made small pastry cups in this wonderful dish (pre-oiled) then put in the chopped porksand figs.  (These cups are not very big and I did not chop the pork very small to start with when cooking hence the re-sizing after cooking)

pork figs in dough cups

The dish is then put in the oven for roughly 30 minutes at 350. (or till the crust is a toasty gold).

baked pork fig tartlet

While these pastry shells are very very rustic, I think this makes an elegant dish.  I enjoy the tastiness of a well made pastry wrapped around meaty honey/wine sweetness of the pork and figs.

June 24, 2013 | No comments

Now that Gulf Wars is over and all the laundry has been done, I have a moment for more postings!  This next recipe was done for Kingdom A&S (one of three) for a Peacock recipe using duck for an alternative meat.  This recipe is my favorite.  I’ve made the patties with beef but duck beat out the beef hands down.  So if you have the time, use duck!

Roman Duck Sliders (Faux Peacock)

“Grind chopped meat with the center of fine white bread that has been soaked in wine.  Grind together pepper, garum and pitted myrtle berries if desired.  Form small patties, putting in pine nuts and pepper.  Wrap in omentum and cook slowly in caroenum.”  (Giacosa, pp. 90)

The ground meat patties of peacock have first place, if they are fried so that they remain tender… (Apicius, 54/Giacosa, pp. 90).

On a side note, the peacock was so expensive (roughly 50 denarii a bird) that some peacocks were stripped of their skin then cooked (roasted) in aromatic resinous substances until the meat was effectively mummified. Afterwards it was redressed and reserved at another banquet later that week or month without fear of rotting. (Toussaint-Samat, pp. 38)

This recipe, for ground patties, was probably used for peahens past their reproductive cycle, and at 50 denarii per bird, this would still be a very expensive and luxuriant dish to serve to nobility and emperors.


1 peacock        1 cup ground bread crumbs        1 tsp ground pepper        ½ red wine (pinot)

1 tsb fish sauce        ½ cup pine nuts          ½ lb bacon strips


First cut as much meat off the thawed duck as possible with a bit of skin.

This is the start of the meat cutting.  Even though a young duck doesn’t look like it has a lot of meat there should be enough after everything blended you should have roughly 8 patties, so don’t worry unless you are making dinner for 20.  Then you have your work cut out for you!

Place all the meat with some of the skin into a Cuisinart and hit grind.

I know…not very appetizing but the dish does get better!

Gather all your spices into one spot.

First add a little of the wine to the bread crumbs with out making a soup.  2-3 TBS should do it.  Next mix in the pepper.

Then mix the spices into the ground duck meat.

Here we have a Roman meatloaf, but we aren’t done yet!

Form patties from the duck mixture, roughly the size of your palm.  If you have really large hands, you will want to trim the patties down a little.  If your hands are a bit small you will want to add to the patties so they are a bit larger.

Here I managed to get 8 patties roughly 3 inches in diameter.

Take the patties and wrap them in a slice of bacon.

Step one…place pattie on top of the bacon.

Next cover with the bacon.  You shouldn’t need a tooth pick.  The bacon grips pretty well to it’s self.

Finally for the cooking portion, place the bacon wrapped pattie in a pan with red wine.

Here you can’t see the wine, as the patties are on top.  The wine should come almost all the way to the top of the patties not just cup the bottom of the patties as seen here.  So when in doubt…add more wine!  This is a Roman dish after all.

Then put the pan in the oven at 350 for roughly 25-30 minutes.

As seen the bacon held to the pattie and the pattie is thoroughly cooked.

Here is a single pattie.

Oh my!  This is soo tasty.  The duck is a wonderful rich meat with the wine and pine nuts.  The bacon a great salty meaty counter point to the sweet wine the meats are cooked in.  This is a definite must for the Roman cook to try at least once!


This recipe is short sweet and very Roman.  They liked their seafood as much then as we do today.  The tastes may not have always been the same but for a high dinner Primus, fish and/or seafood was a must!

Boiled Octopus


For octopus: pepper, liquamen and laser. Serve

The notes say that there are several ways in which octopus was cooked.  One of the fastest being, unskinned to preserve the beautiful colors to star and poaching for no more then 5 minutes.  The next step would be to allow the octopus to cool slowly.  (Faas, pp. 341)


1 octopus or several baby octopi

2 tbs ground pepper corns

1 tbs fish sauce

1 tbs garlic or 1 tsp of Asafoetida



The second method was to cook for several hours in a very low temperature in white wine, water and herbs.   Garlic or asoafoetida could have been added to the water in place of laser.

I have chosen to do a quick boil with asafoetida as the spice with peppers instead of garlic.  Asafoetida is also known as devils dung, stinking gum, and giant fennel.  (Wikipedia). As the first two names indicate this spice is very malodorous.  The benefit of using asafetida is that when cooked in a dish, this pungent herb tastes like leek or mildly of garlic.  Be ready to air out any kitchen in which asafetida is used in!

Once the spices were assembled,

I started a pot of water, adding in pepper then the asafetida.

Everything was mixed together well and the water allowed to just start a gentle simmer.  The octopi were added.

These small octopus cook very quickly, much like shrimp.  The color change is quite vivid, going from a grey color to a purple/pink.  The actual flesh firmed up with an almost rubber like quality.  The octopi cooked for 5 minutes then cooled slowly in the cooking liquid for another 30.

This is one of the fastest dishes I’ve ever made.  Even with the inclusion of spices to the water, the cooking of the octopi is very short!  Instead of an hour or 3 for a dish, this was 10 minutes tops.

The octopi are a little chewy and a little peppery/onion.  Mostly chewy though.  I probably will not make this for a mundane dish…but at least I now know of one period way to cook octopus!

I was in the mood to try a little bit of Roman again.  I haven’t had a good wine and pork dish for a bit so turned to my trusted Roman books for inspiration.  And look!  We have a yummy tasty pork dish ready for the first days of spring and those first few blushing bulbs of fennel, not to mention a way to use all those bits of left over red wine from our dark cold Ansteorran winters.

Pork in a red wine and fennel sauce

Krea Tareikhera


Cured meat or slices of ham, similarly raw meat: first the cured meat is boiled a little just to take away its saltiness.  Then put tall these ingredients into a pan: four parts of wine, two parts of grape syrup, one part of wine vinegar, dry coriander, thyme, dill, fennel.  Fry after putting everything in together at the start, then boil.  Half-way through the cooking some people add honey and ground cumin, others pepper, and after putting the sauce into a warmed pt they add little pieces of hot loin and bread. (Heidelberg papyrus)

(Grant, pp. 124-125)


2lbs of cured ham or raw pork

1 pint red wine

½ cup grape syrup or Sapa

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp dry coriander

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp dill

¼ C fennel (roughly ½ a fennel bulb)


1 tsp cumin

1 Tbs honey

1 tsp pepper

¼ C bread crumbs or 1 slice of bread


Gather together all your ingredients.

If using cured meat, boil for about 3 minutes till the saltiness is gone and drain.  If using fresh, cut into bite sized pieces.

Combine all the first round of ingredients into a pot.  Here I did things slightly different.  I used fresh thyme and dill from my garden roughly chopped.

Instead of using grape syrup or Sapa, I used port.  I like sweet wine so had some on hand.  I used balsamic vinegar as my vinegar, again as it was on hand.

I combined the wines and vinegar together, then all the spices.

This is the cummin added.

Here the thyme, fennel and dill are being added.

Stir everything together.

Add the pork and mix well.

At this point I put the lid on to the clay pot and placed in the oven for about an hour at 350.

This picture does not do the dish justice.  Once the pork is cooked pull it out of the clay pot and into a bowl.

If I had boiled the meat and sauce together in a pot, the remaining liquid would have thickened up and I would have then removed the meat cubes and used the sauce on the side.  What I wanted was slow cooked pork in wine and spice, with out a sauce.

So after removing the liquid from the clay pot, I took the remaining sauce which had not reduced much at all an, and placed into a regular cooking pot.

You want to boil this till the sauce has reduced by about half, forming a nice thick red wine and fennel sauce.  I can’t show you this as I left my pot boiling and ended up with a sticky burnt sauce.  I was very sad at this.  The pork was excellent with out the sauce but I’m sure the sauce would have added a sweet tangy tastiness.

So, if you want a thick sauce on the side you can cook everything together then boil the remaining liquid into a sauce or just boil everything together and let the sauce reduce that way.  Roman cooking lets you experiment with many different options and ways.  Do not think that just one way is the only way!


Stuffed Dormice

It’s that time again, when the craving for tasty tasty piggy comes about.  So we return to our old hunting ground of recipes by the Romans for insperation.   This tasty tidbit came about by accident.  I was looking to do a very period recipe called Glires ( Stuffed Dormice).  The original Dormice are cute fluffy tailed small rodents that fit into the palm of a hand.  Dormice were raised by the Romans on large farms (called Glirarii) in great quantity, like chicken and rabbits, with the fattest of dormice being in the most demand.  They were such a popular dish that the consul Marcu Aemilius Scaurus issued a sumptuary law that attempted to prohibit the consumption of dormice, but the law was ineffective due to the popularity of these tasty morsals. (Herklotz, pg 75)  When I tried to get actual Dormice for this recipe there was a monkey pox going on (No, I didn’t make this part up!) and had to substitute some thing else.   At the original making of the recipe, I had a pork loin on hand and decided to use 1″ cuts to act as the “Dormice” body while keeping to the pork filling.   Here is my take on an old time favorite by the Romans with tasty tasty piggy.


1). Doormice: Stuff dormice with a pork filling and with the meat of whole dormice ground with pepper, pine nuts, silphium, and garum.  Sew up, place on a baking tile, and put them in the oven; or cook the stuffed (dormice) in a pan. (Herkotz, pg. 75)

*Silphium: the Greek name for laser; a plant of the genus Ferula, now extinct.  Garlic juice is used as a substitute. (or crushed garlic)

2). Stuff the dormice with minced pork, the minced meat of the whole dormice, pounded with pepper, pin-kernels, asafetida, and liquamen,.  Sew up, and place on a tile, put in the oven or cook, stuffed, in a small oven. (Flower, pg. 205)


3 – 1 1/2” pork rounds                    1/2 cup ground pork  (plain pork meat)

¼ cup pine-nuts                               1 tsp pepper

1 tsp fish sauce                                1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tsp thyme (optional)

My Redaction:

Romans’ were notorious for substituting so I have no qualms when substituting pork in the place of rodent.  I really did try for the original meat but was thwarted by a plague…ok a monkey pox.

The actual pork meat is 1 1/2″ thick cuts of pork loin though a thick cut pork chop would work as well.


The pork filling is actually a pork chop ground fine in a little Cuisinart I have on hand.   Modern sausage could be used, though I’ve found the spices to be overbearing to the more subtle tastes of the nuts, pepper and garlic.

pork filling with spices

Here is the ground pork chop used for the stuffing with the spices, fish sauce and pine nuts.  Mix together.

I tried to stick to the period recipe as close as possible with the exception of adding a tsp of thyme.  The thyme is optional.  Period Roman sausage or sausage stuffing included a plethora of ingredients: “Lucanian sausages:…Pepper is ground with cumin, savory, rue, parsley, condiments, bay berries and garum.  Finely ground meat is mixed in, then ground again together with other ground ingredients…” (Herklotz, pp. 182)   The addition of thyme is acceptable as would be a host of other items though I would suggest moderation so as to not overpower the over all taste.  Experiment, but experiment with a light hand!


This is the mixture with everything incorporated into the finely ground pork.

The next step is to take the pork loin rounds and slice into the sides; roughly 2 1/2 – 3 inches wide.   Cutting into the pork loin along the sides and end with out cutting through to form a pocket on the inside of the meat.  (The picture is a little blurry…hard to handle the meat and take a picture at the same time).

sliced pork

Take the pork filling (about 1/3 of the mixture) and stuff into the opening of the pork loin, which will bulge out the side a little bit like an over stuffed wallet.

stuffed pork in dishI place the stuffed loins on their bottoms instead of laying them on the side.  I did not want any of the stuffing falling out but did want all the taste and juices to stay in the pork loin pockets.  I place at the bottom of the baking dish (no cooking tile was on hand to bake these on) a little mead I had on hand.

These bad boy stuffed piggy posing as Dormice are now ready to be placed into the oven for 30 minutes (or until thoroughly cooked) at 350.

cooked pork

I like the little extra sweetness when eating pork.  So did the Romans as the suggested sauce for Dormice is honey with poppy seeds drizzled over the tidbits, which is suggested by Pliny in Herkotz.

Minutal Ex Praecoquis

Pork and Apricot Fricasee

When I first started to do redactions, I adored doing Roman foods.    Now don’t get me wrong, the Romans did many things very well, cooking being one of them.  It is not my first cooking love but a wonderful stand by for those days when I need that little indulgence that Medieval ME just can’t and wont give me.  And by that…I mean, pork!!!  Yummy tasty piggy!  Err…I’ll get to the recipe now.


1st translation:  In a pot, put oil, garum, and wine; chopped dried Ascalionian onion, and dice cooked pork shoulder.  When all these things are cooked, grind pepper, cumin, dried mint, and dill; moisten with honey, garum, passum, a bit of vinegar, and the cooking juice; mix.  Add pitted apricots, bring to a boil, and ehat until cooked.  Theicken with crumbled tracta, sprinklw with pepper, and serve.

2nd translation:  Put in the saucepan oil, liquamen, wine, chop in dry shallot, add diced shoulder of pork cooked previously.  When all this is cooked pound pepper, cumin, dried mint, and dill, moisten with honey, liquamen, passum, a little vinegar, and some cooking-liquor; mix well.  Add the stoned apricots.  Bring to the boil, and let it boil until done.  Crumble pastry to bind sprinkle with pepper and serve.

(Apicius 170/Flower, pg. 115/Herkotz, pg. 67)


2 Tbs olive oil               2 tsp garum  (fish sauce)

½ cup wine

3 shallots/1 onion or 4 Tbs dried onion

1 lb cubed pork                   ½ tsp pepper

1 tsp cumin                          1 tsp dried mint

1 tsp dill                                 2 Tbs honey                 2 Tbs vinegar

My redaction:

The original recipe called for pork shoulders.  Now a quick note on Roman cooking.  Roman cooks liked to substitute, like mad.  Must have been the lead in the waterways.  Actually it was probably the fact that if item a was not on hand then item b would have to do, so new and improved recipes were always being formed, written, eaten and extolled about.  So here I am, with out pork shoulder but I do have some excellent boneless pork ribs.  What is a cook to do!  Well I cut those riblets up into bite sized chunks and boiled them to cook into tenderized tasty morsels!


In a pan I poured in a bit of fish sauce (substituting for the original liquamen), wine (I had a 7 year old bottle of home made mead on hand…though I have used home made rose hip wine as well), chopped onion, and the cooked pork.

spices wine apricots

I let the meat, onions and liquids simmer for a few minutes (roughly 5-10) then I added the spices with honey and a touch of vinegar.  The vinegar is helpful in cutting the fish sauce’s salty fishy taste to a mellow slightly salty unique flavor.  Trust me on this one.  The fish sauce is a necessity and as long as it’s not over done in the dish the vinegar with a touch of honey mellows out the strong flavor to an excellence hard to find in today’s regular pork dishes!  I also added another 1/2 of mead with the chopped apricots.  I like the taste of mead and apricots with pork.

pork in bowl

Now here is where I and the translation part ways.  I did not want to add crumbled bread crumbs or pastry as I like the pork and apricot stew as a dry soup and not a breaded meat dish.   The original translation can be done with bread or with out.  I choose to go with out and I liked it!