Experimental Recipe Session – Hits and Misses

There is no new translation today, no recipe texts. I spent much of the day trying out recipes in preparation for a cooking gig: This December, I will be preparing a meal for a reenactors’ gathering near Kaiserslautern based on Late Antiquity. These are some thing I tried out to see whether they are suitable.

The first thing I wanted to try was making patinae in the oven. These dishes were usually cooked in frying pans, but if I want to prepare one for a larger number of people, I will have to use a baking dish. I had already tried it with a sixth-century version based on the accounts of Gregory of Tours.

Today, I chose two recipes from the Apicius collection. Both the gourd patina and the salt fish and cheese patina turned out all right, though the process will still take some fine-tuning. Especially the latter was excellent and I think I will adapt this recipe for the feast.

The second thing I wanted to try was Ostian Ofellae, again from Apicius. This is marinaded pork, slow-cooked and cut into (presumably bite-sized) pieces. The cut I was able to get was meant for grilling and impractical for rolling up with the skin side out as the recipe envisions, so I had to make sideways rolls and cut them up quite small. They still turned out quite lovely, and I will definitely do that again with the right kind of meat. It is tender and juicy, almost like barbecue.

Then there were sauces to go with the meats (I also added some roast beef, but I did not prepare that, I just bought some end pieces from a halal butcher and sliced them up). The horseradish with pepper is based on Apicius (assuming that is what Apicius means here). The combination is a winner, but I felt I had to add a little olive oil to make it work properly.

The other sauce is a mustard based on Palladius involving honey and olive oil. This was predictably popular, but quite mild. I will try a sharper version with fresh mustard flour, I think.

As a side dish, I used an interpretation of Apicius’ ‘lentils with chestnuts’ as an actual lentil dish (it is possible that it means chestnuts cooked like lentils instead). The lentils were just cooked in water with a little salt and an onion, then mashed up. the chestnut puree with its spice mix then went on top. This is best served quite fresh and should not be kept in a warm oven like I did, but it still turned out all right.

The second side dish was cooked gourd, though unfortunately I was only able to get a New World squash at the market. This is likely the same thing I will have to do for the meeting and I am not happy about it, but in terms of flavour, the cumin sauce Apicius recommends works.

Finally, I added cheese served with honey and must bread according to Cato. I realise Cato is not exactly Late Antique, but the recipe works very well and the name is found in later sources. It may still mean roghly the same thing.

So altogether a successful day. I enjoyed meeting friends old and new, and there was general agreement the recipes had worked well. Some will still need fine-tuning, but things are looking good for December.

There will be translations tomorrow.

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