This is one of the very first recipes that I made when I first started diving into the cookbook Apicius as part of my research for FEAST OF SORROW. It calls for caroneum which is a bit tricky to know exactly what it might have tasted like but it was a reduced grape syrup of some sort. I recommend that you substitute sapa (sometimes called saba) or vincotto, which are essentially just different names for grape must, and either would be delicious in this dish. They are easily acquired at specialty food shops or Amazon.com.
Posts about Recipe:
My grandfather, whom we called Papa, loved to bake. He loved to make cookies, pies, cakes. And he loved to send big huge care packages to us from four hundred miles away full of his favorite treats. My mother learned to make many of his favorites and passed them on to my sister and I. There are many that I love, but this particular recipe is the one I love the best. They are also some of the simplest cookies to make, with only a few ingredients.
Every holiday season, the humble sweet potato transforms into a delicious side dish, sometimes simple, sometimes decadent. The sweet potato (which is different than a yam, sorry Louisiana) is a tuber native to South America but it found its way to Europe and parts East once the New World explorations began.
The first turkey recipes appear in the Italian cookbook in L'Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi (who happens to be the protagonist in my novel, The Chef's Secret). Turkeys found their way to Italy during the Renaissance, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the century that they were deemed suitable for eating. As you might know, turkeys are a bird native to the Americas and were prized by the ancient Aztecs and Native Americans alike. Christopher Columbus noted the bird when he first came to America, but it wasn't until around 1519 when Spanish and Italian explorers first brought turkeys to Europe. Initially they were regarded as a beautiful and strange oddity, and many nobles kept them as pets or gave them to others as extravagant gifts. They were loved for their unique look, with artists depicting them in sculpture and paintings. The sculpture you see here, by Italian sculptor Giambologna, is from 1560, of the prized pet of Cosimo di Medici. The Italians called them gallo d'India (or birds of India) because of general geographical confusion by early explorers. Eventually, however, turkeys became even more loved for their delicious and unusual flavor.
One of my favorite things about writing THE CHEF'S SECRET was trying my hand at some of Bartolomeo Scappi's recipes. L’Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi includes some of the first recipes resembling what we know as pasta today, including stuffed pasta such as tortellini and tortelli. It was a fun challenge trying to figure out how to make this recipe, from Book II.252 of L’Opera, work. The dough, which is made with with sugar and rosewater but no oil, is a bit softer and more pliable than what is common today. The spices lend themselves well to the peas, however, and this makes a perfect spring dish. But if you are like me, and love peas any time of the year, by all means, go with the frozen peas. It's still a delightful and surprising dish!
It's #NationalIceCreamDay and that deserves two blog posts, in my humble opinion.
This article first appeared in the inaugural issue of the beautiful food history publication, EATEN Magazine. If you love food and love reading about the fascinating history of food, definitely snag a subscription...you won't be sorry! The photos of the cake were taken by Valerio Necchio.
Renaissance chef (and character in my second novel), Bartolomeo Scappi, wrote a cookbook that was released in 1570 and was one of the most reprinted cookbooks over the next two hundred years. One of the most wonderful things about his cookbook, The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, is that it is still very accessible today. There are exceptions, for example, modern audiences would not be interested in some of the meats (hedgehog or blackbird anyone?), and many of the items are not readily available or, like his feathered peacock, are too elaborate too make.
Fortunately, many of his recipes are are still pretty easy to figure out. Like this one for braised beef:
My novel, FEAST OF SORROW, is full of food. Everything about the story pivots around meals, ingredients and what food represents. One of the main characters is a Roman gourmand named Apicius, whose name is on the world's oldest known cookbook.
When researching my book, FEAST OF SORROW, one of the fun bits was trying out various recipes and experiencing the flavors of ancient Roman food. The book is about Apicius, a first century Roman whose name appears as the title of the oldest known cookbook.
One of the recipes in Apicius is for Parthian chicken. Parthia was part of ancient Persia, now in a region of north-eastern Iran. Much to my delight, it turns out that the Parthians really knew how to make chicken. Hands down this is one of the best chicken dishes I've ever had. It's juicy and tender with a perfectly crispy crust.
Back in 1987, archaeologists discovered a treasure trove in a floor drain of the Roman Forum. This "treasure" was 86 loose teeth, all intact but with cavities in various stages. Three decades later, they've finally determined that they were all extracted by a highly skilled dentist of the time. Also of interest, up in England, researchers have pinpointed the advanced stages of dental decay in a young Roman toddler, to excessive consumption of honey.
Medicine was quite advanced in Ancient Greece and Rome. Surgeons regularly practiced lobotomies, Caesarean sections (didn't you ever wonder where that name came from?) and amputations, and were the inventors of tools such as forceps, catheters, scalpels and bone drills. Along with all of this fancy "technology" the Romans also relied heavily on herbs and the beneficial properties of food. Pliny writes (in addition to telling us how bees manage their colonies) that honey is good for afflictions of the mouth, pneumonia, pleurisy and snake bites.
This is a very good and easy ancient recipe, included in Apicius' cookbook. We make this often as a side dish. It goes particularly well with the recipe for Parthian Chicken! You may have been making beets this way and not even known that the recipe was at least 2,000 years old!
The original recipe:
This is an ancient cracker recipe from Athenaeus, a rhetorician and grammarian who lived in Rome in the 3rd century AD. This recipe is a delightful, snacky interpretation of a cracker that was most likely served at taverns in ancient Greece and Rome. The original recipe doesn't give us much direction, but they were likely somewhat similar to the recipe below.
Glykinai: "The cakes from Crete made with sweet wine and olive oil.” - Athenaeus in The Deipnosophistae
This is, without a doubt, one of the easiest recipes you could ever try your hand at making. These cakes are still made in Egypt and Turkey, and have been around since early Greek and Roman times. You can find similar fig cakes sold at cheese shops and Whole Foods for ridiculously astronomical prices for what they are.
A 10th century encyclopedia, the Suda Lexicon, chronicles the ancient recipe as:
As readers of this blog already know, the novel I'm currently writing is about yet another cook, Bartolomeo Scappi, who was a Renaissance chef to several cardinals and Popes. The BBC has a great special called Carluccio & The Renaissance Cookbook which aired a few years back. You can check it out here though.
Fascinating! Looks like I'll have to go to Dumenza at some point to check out the Scappi menu at that restaurant! In the meantime, I'll definitely be trying that risotto and the mushroom tart!
When researching my book, FEAST OF SORROW, one of the fun bits was trying out various ancient recipes. The book is about Apicius, a first century Roman whose name appears as the title of the oldest known cookbook. One of the recipes in Apicius is for Parthian chicken. Parthia was part of ancient Persia, now in a region of north-eastern Iran. Much to my delight, it turns out that the Parthians really knew how to make chicken. Hands down this is one of the best chicken dishes I've ever had. It's juicy and tender with a perfectly crispy crust. The original recipe calls for a spice called silphium (also called laser) which went extinct in the first century. Emperor Nero is rumored to have had the last sprig. Asafoetida powder or resin, common to Middle Eastern cooking, is believed to be the closest approximation to the taste. If you can't find that, just substitute garlic.
In my novel, one of the treats served up by Apicius to his guests (from De Re Coquinaria, Chapter IX, 396) is stuffed dormice. They were generally eaten as snacks and were a favorite at the tabernas and popinas (taverns and bars) but were also popular with the upper class. Nowadays the lucky little dormouse isn't eaten (although apparently they are still in Slovenia!) but way back then they were often stuffed, fried and eaten whole, bones and all. Below is the recipe found in the cookbook which bears Apicius' name.
Awhile back I posted on one of my blogs about Roman honey cakes, which were primarily used as sacrificial cakes, but versions may have also been used as a snack in the tabernas and popinas.
Sally Grainger is one of the most well-known food historians, especially when it comes to the recipe book that bears Apicius' name. She is also the co-author of The Classical Cookbook, and in that book there is a recipe for Libum, a classic ancient sacrificial cake, first mentioned in Cato's On Agriculture.