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Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens

Pork in Sweet Wine and Fig Sauce

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Pork in Sweet Wine and Fig Sauce
Psoai

1 kg / 2 lb pork
120 ml / 4 fl oz olive oil
2 tsp coriander seeds
Juice of half a lemon
? litre / ? pint sweet white wine
5 dried figs
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano
A handful of fresh parsley
Sea salt

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 180?C/350?F/gas mark 4. Just before serving, sprinkle the finely chopped parsley over the pork. Bread or barley accompany this dish well.

Copyright © Mark Grant, 2007

 
Herb Purée with Pine Kernels

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Herb Purée with Pine Kernels
Mixtura cum Nucleis Pineis

100 g / 3 oz pine kernels or hazelnuts
A handful of fresh parsley
80 ml / 3 fl oz olive oil
80 ml / 3 fl oz red wine vinegar
? tsp ground black pepper
125 g / 4 oz feta cheese
A handful of fresh coriander leaves
2 or 3 mint leaves
A sprig each of savory, rue and thyme
Sea salt

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.

Put all the ingredients in a food-processor. Purée until you have a smooth consistency and serve with bread. If you are using hazelnuts, roast them first under a hot grill for 5 minutes to release their nuttiness, turning them frequently to avoid burning.

Copyright © Mark Grant, 2007

 
Honey and Sesame Pizza

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Honey and Sesame Pizza
Staititai

250 g / 9 oz spelt flour
1 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
150 ml / 5 fl oz warm water
Olive oil for frying
200 g / 7 oz feta cheese
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp clear honey
Sea salt

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.

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Spoon in the dried yeast and leave to stand for 15 minutes to reactivate. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and knead into a supple dough — you may need to add a touch more flour or water. Put in a bowl, cover with cling film and allow to rise for one hour. Then divide the dough into two equal balls. Roll these out on a lightly floured surface until you have rounds 25 cm / 10 inches in diameter. Place these in separate plastic bags and leave for 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Slide a disc into the pan and fry very gently, turning over from time to time until golden brown on both sides. Repeat with the other disc. Mash the feta cheese and spread it over both discs. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Flash under a hot grill to melt the cheese, cut into wedges and serve.

Copyright © Mark Grant, 2007

 
Fish Sauce

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Fish Sauce
Garum

400 g / 13 oz sea salt
700 ml / 24 fl oz water
1 jar of salted anchovies (100 g / 3? oz)
A pinch of dried oregano
1 tbsp
sapa (wine reduced to a third of its original volume)

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
for use.

Copyright © Mark Grant, 2007

 
Barley Water

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Barley Water
Kykeon

60 g / 2 oz pearl barley
125 ml / ? pint sweet white wine
2 tbsp honey

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.

Simmer the barley in 2 pints of water in a covered pan for an hour and a half. Strain off the juice into a jug or bottle and discard the barley. Mix the juice with the wine and honey and add more water so that you have 2 pints of drink. Refrigerate before serving.

Copyright © Mark Grant, 2007

 
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