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Roman-Recipes-art - 5/31/00


Some recipes from "Anthimus' _De Obseruatione Ciborum_" by Adamantius.


NOTE: See also the files: stews-bruets-msg, fd-Byzantine-msg, fd-Italy-msg, chicken-msg, salads-msg, p-Italy-food-bib.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2000 12:56:58 -0500

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: SC - Anthimus Class Notes and Commentary - Long


As I mentioned previously, I had the opportunity to teach a class at an

event held by the group to our immediate north, an annual early-period

university event called Hrim-Schola. My topic was Anthimus' _De

Obseruatione Ciborum_, and my format was mixed hands-on and lecture,

which proved to be a good way to keep things moving. Much of it was

off-the-cuff, but we had enough people in concentration (maybe 12)

sufficiently interested in the subject matter that we managed to have a

good time and try three dishes in the two-hour class, with plenty of

time to talk about things. [My deepest thanks to my seneschale, Lady

Andrea Caitlin MacIntyre, C.M., C.S.C., etc., whose help and use of the

wonderful cooking equipment she had on site proved invaluable, since the

class was held in what appeared to be a chemistry lab, a

not-totally-inappropriate place for such a class.]  Here are the revised

class notes...


Some Recipes from Anthimus' 'De Obseruatione Ciborum Epistula' (roughly,

'A Little Letter Of Observations On Foods') Translation by Mark Grant, ©

1996 Mark Grant, published by Prospect Books, Devon ISBN 0907325 750


Steamed Beef Stew


'III. De carnibus uero uaccinis uaporatas factas et in sodinga coctas

utendum, etiam et in iuscello, ut prius exbromatas una unda mittat, et

sic in nitida aqua, quantum ratio poscit, coquantur, ut non addatur

aqua, et cum cocta fuerit caro, mittis acetum acerrimum quantum media

bucula, et mittis capita porrorum et puledium modicum, apii radicis uel

finiculum, et coquat in una hora, et sic addis mel quantum medietatem de

aceto uel quis dulcedinem habere uoluerit, et sic coquat lento foco

agetando ipsa olla frequenter manibus, et bene ius cum carne ipsa

temperetur, et sic teri: piper grana L, costo et spicanardi per singula

quantum medietatem solidi, et cariofili quantum pinsat tremissis I. ista

omnia simul trita bene in mortario fictile addito uino modico, et cum

bene tribulatum fuerit, mittis in olla et agetas bene ita, ut, antequam

tollatur de foco, modicum sentiat et remittat in ius uirtutem suam. ubi

tamen fuerit mel aut sapa uel carenum, unum de ipsis, sicut superius

contenit, mittatur, et in bucculare non coquat, sed in olla fictile

meliorem saporem facit.'


'3. Beef which has been steamed can be used both roasted in a dish and

also braised in a sauce, provided that, as soon as it begins to give off

a smell, you put the meat in some water. Boil it in as much fresh water

as suits the portion of meat; you should not have to add any more water

during the boiling. When the meat is cooked, put in a casserole about

half a cup of sharp vinegar, some leeks and a little pennyroyal, some

celery and some fennel, and let these simmer for one hour. Then add half

the quantity of honey to vinegar, or as much honey as you wish for

sweetness. Cook over a low heat, shaking the pot frequently with one’s

hands so that the sauce coats the meat sufficiently. Then grind the

following: 50 peppercorns, 2 grammes each of costmary and spikenard, and

1.5 grammes of cloves. Carefully grind all these spices together in an

earthenware mortar with the addition of a little wine. When well ground,

add them to the casserole and stir well, so that before they are taken

from the heat, they may  warm up, and release their flavour into the

sauce. Whenever you have a choice of honey or must reduced either by a

third or two-thirds, add one of these as detailed above. Do not use a

bronze pan, because the sauce tastes better cooked in an earthenware casserole.'


Text notes:


Based on some disagreement between the two texts IÕve worked with, itÕs

being borne upon me that either the text is simpy open to a broad

spectrum of interpretation, or one or both of the translators is wrong

on certain points. Today, for example, we usually think of beef as the

meat of steers, and Grant translates 'carnibus uero uaccinis' as 'beef',

while the other translation I have suggests it is 'the meat of cows'. A

small point, perhaps, but since understanding the characteristics of

this main ingredient may help understand the cooking process, one worth

pursuing, I think. Beef in the late Roman world, as well as in the

middle ages, appears to have been the meat of various cattle, including

both mature and immature bulls, ditto cows, and oxen. I'm not sure if

steers were gelded specifically for docility and tenderness as they made

their way to the table, so we may be talking about meat considerably

tougher and perhaps stronger in flavor than what we are used to today

when we think of beef. Both translations speak of roasting or steaming

the beef before braising, but only Grant believes the meat may not be

fresh, requiring to be put in water as soon as it begins to smell.The

other translation says something like, 'Cow's meat, steamed and cooked

in a casserole should be eaten in a gravy. First, it should be soaked in

one water...' etc.  I wonder if perhaps Anthimus is telling us we can

steam it or roast before braising, provided we only roast it until it

has a toasted aroma. I chose to solve this by steaming the meat in a

tiny amount of water, in a sealed pot, until somewhat tender, before

adding the sauce ingredients and the vegetables. I also wonder why the

earlier translator should equate “apii radicis”with parsley root, and

Grant with celery, when it seems to me to suggest celery root, celeriac.




~2 lbs beef suitable for moist heat cooking (I used chuck steak)

3/4 cup vinegar of your choice: red wine, white wine, cider, malt, etc.

1 large leek, mostly white part, slit into quarters and sliced 1/2 inch thick

Pennyroyal or mint, dried, 1 tsp

1 small celery root, peeled, 1/2 inch dice

1/2 head fennel, 1/2 inch dice

~3/8 cup honey, or to taste as well as thicken sauce

50 peppercorns

~1 tsp spikenard

Costmary was unavailable, use same amount as spikenard, I guess

3/4 tsp cloves

1/4 cup wine


*Note that salt is not mentioned in this recipe, however it does appear

in some of the others; I can only assume this particular recipe doesn’t

call for it, while others do, and I therefore would not add salt to this

on the grounds that the author simply failed to mention it.


Recipe notes:

As stated above, I used chuck steak, which I cooked partially in a

tightly sealed pot with a small amount of water, then added the vinegar

and the vegetables, and somewhat later the honey and the spices. Note

that while Anthimus is careful to include quantities for the spices, but

doesn’t say how much beef this is intended for. I solved this, I

believe, by making up a spice mixture in the stated proportions, then

adding enough to aggressively season the meat and sauce. I had some

leftover spices when I was done, so perhaps the recipe was for more than

two pounds of beef, or this stuff is supposed to be really spicy. The

spikenard proved an unexpected problem; I bought it ground in little

chunks, then ground it to a powder in a coffee grinder. It seems,

though, as if there may have been some grit in the stuff I bought, so

the texture of the sauce wasn’t all it might have been. Maybe fresh

spikenard roots would help, or perhaps a sachet bag of the larger chunks

would have helpred. Something to consider in the future. What I ended up

doing was to simply allow the grit to settle in the bottom of the pot

and leave some of it behind when transferring the stew to another

container. The end result, though, was sweet and spicy, the beef tender,

if slightly dry, although kept moist by the vegetables.

Steamed Afrutum of Chicken Breast


'XXXIV. ‘afrutum’ graece quod latine dicitur ‘spumeum’, quod de pullo

fit et de albumen de ouo; sed multum albumen ouorum mittatur, ita ut

quomodo spuma sic deueniat opus ipsud afruti, quod desuper iuscello

facto et hygrogario in gauata componatur quomodo monticulus, et sic

gauata ponitur in carbones et sic uapore ipsius iuscelli coquatur ipsud

afrutum; et sic ponitur in medio missoiogauata ipsa, et superfinditur

modicum merum et mel, et sic cum cocleari uel nouella tenera mandacatur.

solemus et de pisce bono in ipso opere admiscere aut certe de pectinibus

marinis, quia et ipsi optimi sunt et satis apud nos abundant. et de

ipsis puris pectinibus fient sferae niueae.'


'34. What is called in Greek afrutum and in Latin spumeum is made from

chicken and egg whites. Lots of egg white must be used so that the

afrutum becomes foamy. It should be arranged in a mound on a shallow

casserole with a previously prepared gravy and diluted fish sauce

underneath. Then the casserole is set over the charcoal and the afrutum

cooked in the steam of the sauce. The casserole is then placed in the

middle of a serving dish, and a little wine and honey poured over it. It

is eaten with a spoon or a small ladle.  I often add to this recipe some

good fish or even some sea-scallops, because they are extremely tasty

and are particularly plentiful around where I live. From clean scallops

are made ‘snow balls’. '


Text notes:


Different manuscript sources disagree as to what the gravy for this dish

is made of. Iuscello is a diminutive of ius, the French jus, or what the

English used to call gravy once upon a time. The defatted drippings from

a roast or boiled chicken would probably be excellent for this. I used

some chicken stock which I reduced to a gel, having some on hand, and

not having a roast chicken. The real question is what was meant by

hygrogario, hydrogario, megroario, egroario, oxygario, and oenegario, as

the space in the sentence is variously filled in different manuscript

copies, and translators’ opinions vary accordingly. Most seem to agree

that this is some product connected to garum, the salted Roman fish

sauce, of which there were several variations and mixtures based on the

basic theme. Oenegarum, for example, was garum mixed with wine, while

oxygarum was garum mixed with vinegar. Some translators feel the

original word may have been hydrogarum, which would suggest garum mixed

with some water.


On another tack, you'll notice that Anthimus speaks of adding fish to

this preparation, then speaks of using scallops, and in another section,

pike. This might be seen to argue that this dish can be made, as with

quenelles, with a variety of light, easily-digested meats, and may not

be intended to portray a mixture. It is also significant that he really

doesn't tell us how to make this dish, except to refer obliquely to the

egg whites making the dish resembles foam. It's tempting to assume this

is a sort of soufflee, or in the case of scallop 'snowballs', something

very close to quenelles de poisson, with beaten egg whites being

carefully folded in to make the dish puff up and whiten as it cooks.

This is speculation, though, a possible downside to allowing an

experienced cook near this recipe in the absence of specific





1 large skinless, boneless chicken breast piece, ~1/2 lb.

(alternately use pike or other white fish or scallops)

~6 egg whites

Optional: 1/8 tsp cream of tartar for emergencies

3/4 cup “gravy”, chicken stock reduced till syrupy

1/4 cup, or to taste, patis or other SE Asian fish sauce




Recipe notes:


As mentioned above, we proceeded on the questionable assumption that the

egg whites were to be beaten till foamy and folded into minced raw meat.

This may or may not actually be the method Anthimus is speaking of, but

the dish, cooked in that way, was quite pleasant. I minced the chicken

breast as finely as possible, which was pretty fine with a sharp chef’s

knife, then quickly grew impatient with attempts to process it further

in a mortar. I wonder if perhaps the egg whites could be added before

putting the meat in a mortar, to aerate the mass at the same time as

pounding it smooth. Again, something to experiment with in future.


Re the gravy/steaming base, we added our jellied stock to a non-stick

electric skillet (I found out on Thursday or so that we wouldn’t be

doing this class in an actual kitchen), added some of our garum (patis),

and listened to the ritual loud complaints regarding fishy aromas. We

laid a mound of our afrutum on top of it, then covered it, so the steam

of the simmering sauce cooked the top of our afrutum. Watching it cook

through the transparent top of our electric skillet was fun, especially

when we (myself and Master Arval Benicoeur d’Espas Nord, O.P.) tried to

decide amicably which branch of the SCA peerage the expanding mound

reminded us of. There being no members of our Chivalry in the room, we

decided it was neither the Laurellate _nor_ the Pelicans, after all. In

deference to Countess Brekke, we also decided it looked nothing at all

like a Lady of the Rose.


Having the modern cook's caution about undercooked chicken, yet being

aware that the success of this dish might depend on undercooking the

meat, we cooked it a bit too much. I had checked the temperature with a

thermometer a couple of times, and it suddenly went from being

marginally raw to being overcooked in less than a minute. As a result,

the dish was slightly rubbery, but still light and tasty. I think

perhaps the best results might be achieved with fish or scallops, unless

one wants to take a risk with chicken and salmonella, which I could not

in good conscience advise. Maybe with experience and a careful watch of

the thermometer it can be fully cooked through without overcooking. For

people interested in cooking this in quantity for a feast or something,

it’s worth noting that this dish could have made four good-sized

servings with half a pound of chicken breast, and provided decent-sized

tasting portions to the ten or twelve people in the class. It can

probably be baked between two disposable aluminum pie pans and served

immediately to the table in its pan. It really needs to be eaten fresh

and hot.


Hot Lentil Salad with Sumach


'LXVII. lenticula uero et ipsa bona lauata et bene elixa in aqua pura,

ita ut illa prima calda fundatur, et alia calda missa cum ratione, non

satis, et sic coquatur lente in carbonibus, ita ut cum cocta fuerit,

acetum modicum mittatur pro sapre, et addatur ibi species illa, quae

dicitur rus Syriacus, puluere facto quantum coclear plenum, et spargatur

super lenticulam dum in foco est, et commisceatur bene; tollatur de foco

et manducetur. tamen oportet pro sapore oleum gremiale, dum coquitur in

secunda aqua, mitti coclear bonum plenum, et coriandrum unum aut duo cum

radicibus suis, non minutatim sed integrum, et modicum de sale pro

sapore faciendum.'


'67. Lentil are good when washed and carefully boiled in fresh water.

Make sure that the first lot of water is poured away, and a second lot

of hot water added as required, but not too much, and then boil the

lentils slowly on the hearth. When they are cooked, add for flavour a

little vinegar, together with the addition of that spice which is called

Syrian sumach. Sprinkle a spoonful of this spice over the lentils while

they are still on the fire, and stir in well. Take the lentils off the

fire and serve. You can for flavouring add a good spoonful of oil from

unripe olives to thr second lot of water while the lentils are still

cooking, as well as one or two spoonfuls of coriander including the

roots  -- not ground but whole -- and a pinch of salt for seasoning.'


Text notes:


An early example of the process similar to the quick-soak method of

cooking legumes. Lentils don't really need this, but soaking, and to a

lesser extent, the quick-soak (usually involving covering the legumes by

an inch or two in water, bringing it to a boil, and letting it sit,

covered, for an hour or so before finishing cooking) is thought by some

to reduce the legumesÕ capacity to cause flatulence. This version

blanches the lentils, throws away the first water, then cooks them again

in fresh water. Another example of a knowledge of the food chemistry

involved in cooking legumes is the fact that vinegar is added after the

lentils are cooked. (Acids tend to prevent beans from softening as they

cook, which is why Le Managier is so detailed on the local water used to

cook beans.)




1 lb. lentils, ~ 2 1/3 cups

3-4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1/2 - 1 bunch cilantro, chopped, with whole roots tied in a bundle,

removed before serving

2 Tbs sumach, or to taste

1 Tbs salt, or to taste

~3 Tbs wine vinegar (add after lentils are fully cooked!)



Recipe notes:


Most of the ingredients in this dish are best added to your own personal

taste. Use the best olive oil you can get; it really contributes to the

flavor of the dish.  We found that there was almost no point at which

there could be too much cilantro, but then we also didnÕt have a bunch

with the roots attached (it would have onvolved a special trip to a

different market), so instead we included a lot of the stems, which are

both flavorful and crunchy.


The recipe doersnÕt talk of draining the water off the cooked lentils,

so a more pottage-y texture is a possible interpretation. We just used

little or no excess water, and cooked the lentils until they were soft

and the water was absorbed, then added the other ingredients at the end.

We found the somewhat dryer salad version was good, too, so that

probably also helped determine the amount, for example, of sumach and

cilantro we added. Either way, we liked it, and so did several people

who donÕt like lentils.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org