Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens
Pork in Sweet Wine and Fig Sauce
1 kg / 2 lb pork
Cut the pork into small pieces, place them in a casserole and fry in a little olive oil until brown. Powder the coriander seeds in an electric coffee-grinder. Then toss the pork in the salt, lemon juice and ground coriander. Chop the figs and boil them in another saucepan for 5 minutes in a couple of glasses of water. Strain off the resulting fig stock and reserve. The figs themselves can be discarded as their seeds make the sauce unpleasantly gritty. Add the wine, oregano, vinegar and fig stock to the pork. Cook the casserole for an hour and a half in an oven pre-heated to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Just before serving, sprinkle the finely chopped parsley over the pork. Bread or barley accompany this dish well.
Herb Purée with Pine Kernels
100 g / 3 oz pine kernels or hazelnuts
This is a delicious pâté, and surely the origin of modern Italian pesto, although there is no basil. Basil was rarely employed by Roman cooks, but is frequently found in ancient medicine. Superstition had it that the herb attracted scorpions, which may have discouraged its use in the kitchen, while doctors considered it awkward to digest because of its juices. The pine kernels give a creamy texture and an aromatic savour that invariably provokes questions at the dinner table as to the exact nature of the recipe. The pâté is still good with hazelnuts, but its origins are more likely to be betrayed by the recognisable flavour of this ingredient.
Honey and Sesame Pizza
250 g / 9 oz spelt flour
Provided that these cakes are cooked carefully, they make an ancient equivalent of pizza, to be eaten as a snack or as part of a larger meal.
400 g / 13 oz sea salt
I use dried oregano in this recipe because its taste is more concentrated than the fresh herb and because it is more generally available. Dissolve the salt in the water over a low heat. Add the anchovies to the salted water with the oregano and sapa. Simmer gently for 20 minutes and then leave to cool. Strain the garum through a fine sieve or muslin cloth and store in a jar ready
60 g / 2 oz pearl barley
Homer describes an eighth-century BC version of barley water in The Iliad, listing barley meal, wine and cheese as the ingredients. In The Classical Cookbook Sally Grainger interprets this as a type of soup or porridge. Hesychius, writing probably in the fifth century AD, records its evolution into a drink. My recipe leans on Ernst Darmstaedter's extensive researches into barley and its culinary uses in ancient times to produce a Roman equivalent of barley water.