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About!

I write! But not a lot of blog posts, so you might not see activity here for months on end while I’m working on the story-writing instead, and when I’m consumed with the day job. In a genre where many writers publish a new book every few months, I’m the slowpoke whose output is about one novel every two years. I’ll always try to make that one novel worth the wait.

I’ve recently self-published a Rome-based erotic romance serial called The Knife of Narcissus. Two other stories in the same setting, but with different characters and at different places on the timeline, are in the works.

A few short stories have been published under other names, and I worked on a choose-your-own-darned-path adventure set in ancient Rome, because I just can’t get enough of those Romans.

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Aliter Dulcia • Fruit Pudding

  • 1/2 lb. fresh, green angelica stalks, or 1 large fennel bulb, or 4 apples
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • ample ginger or cinnamon for sprinkling

To prepare angelica: Bring a large pot of water to a boil then cook the stems over a medium heat until tender (about 5 minutes). Drain, rinse in cold water, and drain again. Peel off the skin and long stringy parts on the outside of the stalks.

Alternatively: Try this recipe with a fennel bulb or apples.

Grate the main ingredient. Use a food processor if you have one—just consider it having a servant in your ancient kitchen. (I invested in a little 4-cup one just for Roman cooking, and it hasn’t let me down.) Spoon into a baking dish or loaf pan. Pour milk over it. When it is completely saturated, place in the oven at 350°F/170°C for an hour until baked but not dried out—it should be creamy, but not soupy.

Remove from the oven and pour honey over the pudding, poking it so the honey sinks in.

Sprinkle with ginger or cinnamon and serve.

Makes 2-3 servings

fennel bulb grated fennel

The dessert recipes tend to take longer to prepare than the main dishes. No wonder ancient Romans usually just picked them up at the local pub.

This dessert was mild in flavour but delicious (my garden-grown fennel has a stronger flavour than this bulb from the store). I enjoyed the texture and I found myself craving more the next day. The dessert recipes tend to take longer to prepare for a smaller quantity than the main dishes—no wonder ancient Romans usually just picked them up at the local pub—but I’d make this again, and will try it with apples. Someday I’ll try it with angelica too, which is what might have been intended in the original recipe, but fennel is a plausible ancient substitute. Ancient cooks would have had many variations on recipes depending on available ingredients!

Ready for drizzling with honey and sprinkling with cinnamon

Ready for drizzling with honey and with sprinkling cinnamon

Dulcia

  • 1 cup mixed spelt and oat flour
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sweet raisin wine (or grape juice concentrate)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • olive oil for frying
  • honey for drizzling
  • more cinnamon for sprinkling

saturnaliacookery_63Grind together 1/2 tsp cinnamon, the almond and pine nuts, and the minced rosemary. Mix with wine (or grape juice concentrate). Whisk the eggs and mix them well with the flour to form a porridge.

Scald (but do not boil) the milk over a moderate flame; remove from heat and allow to cool a minute. Mix milk into the batter, then spread batter out in a flat, lightly oiled pan. When cool, spoon out bite-size pieces and pan-fry them in high-quality oil (the oil should be hot enough that the dough immediately begins to fry when dropped into the pan, but should not be allowed to smoke/burn). Fry to a dark golden brown. Drain the excess oil off by placing each fried piece on a cloth. Drizzle with plenty of honey, sprinkle with plenty of cinnamon, and serve warm.

Makes about a dozen.

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This year’s Saturnalia recipes are being cross-posted with another blog, so don’t be surprised if you see them elsewhere!

To start with this holiday season, here’s a sweet and easy recipe for festive honey cakes.

Libum

  • 1-1/2 lb soft goat or sheep cheese, or ricotta or mascarpone
  • 1-1/3 cup fine spelt flour
  • 3 TBSP high-quality honey suitable for an altar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 dozen bay (laurel) leaves
  • olive oil for pan

Libum: honey cakePreheat oven to 350F/170C.

Whisk egg into a froth and add to flour. Mix in cheese—you might need to use your hands to knead and combine it thoroughly. Add honey and blend well.

Lightly oil a small loaf pan or earthenware dish and layer it thickly with bay leaves. (The bay leaves both impart flavour and prevent the cake from burning on the bottom.) Pour in the batter.

Bake in the oven, or on the hearth in a lidded dish, for 40-45 minutes, checking after a half hour (poke with a thin wooden skewer; if the skewer comes out clean, your cake is done). The cake will rise slightly and cook to a golden brown and a bread-pudding texture.

You can vary the texture with more flour or more honey. With more flour and a stiffer mixture, you can form the dough into several round flat cakes and cook them faster (10-20 minutes) on an oiled, bay leaf-lined cookie tray.

Serve for Saturnalia or any festive occasion!

Slow writer that I am, after many months of silence I’m still working on the prequel to The Knife of Narcissus and Saturnalia.

But it’s Saturnalia holiday time again, and I’ve been experimenting with more Roman cookery. I’ll be sharing new recipes all next week. Some were complete flops, but others have been going well!

There will be lots of pictures, even of the flops.

Mustering the troops for tonight's cookery. No honey? Easy solution: use the honey wine.

Mustering the troops for tonight’s cookery. No honey? Easy solution: use the honey wine.

The ingredients:

Apricots
I used 2 15-ounce (425g) cans of  apricots in light syrup, drained and rinsed off, because I couldn’t find fresh apricots, because, to be honest, I didn’t look very hard. But to find the canned apricots, I had to excavate through to the back of a bottom shelf behind a cart and many cans of peaches, so I feel like I worked hard to harvest these.

Apricot Stew herbs

1 tsp white pepper
3 tsp cumin
4 tsp mint
2 tsp aniseed

Combine and crush the seasonings in mortar and pestle

honey wine (should have been honey and wine, but I was out of honey)—an indeterminate amount, as I spilled it while measuring out 1/3 cup
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
olive oil: 1 dollop
garum: less than a dollop—add more to taste, if that’s your sort of taste
3 medium-size shallots, diced

ApricotStew_shallots

cubed ham
I added 1/4 pound cubed ham. I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Thicken with a small amount of spelt flour. Stew until the apricots are tender, and/or until all the flavours have had a chance to blend. Serve hot. Serves 2 to 3 people.

Diced almonds with golden raisins; mixed olives—kalamata, stuffed with garlic, stuffed with feta—plus peppers and cheese,

Sides: diced almonds with golden raisins; mixed olives—kalamata, stuffed with garlic, stuffed with feta—plus peppers and cheese.

Cabbage and mixed-greens salad with Oxyporium dressing; and of course some bread and cheese.

Cabbage and mixed-greens salad with Oxyporium dressing; and of course some bread and cheese.

The main course, awaiting my test subjects...I mean, dinner guests.

The main course, awaiting my test subjects…I mean, dinner guests.

I think the ham made the stew too salty, without contributing much to the taste. Maybe this stew is better as a side to a meat dish!

On the menu: an early evening Roman-style nosh of apricot stew with a salad with raisin-and-date dressing. Easy on the stomach and recommended for what ails you. I’ll pick up some festive Greek pastries for that Saturnalia sparkle, but later in the week I’ll make ancient-style desserts from scratch.

When I tweeted the recipes, I condensed them to:

Oxyporium: cleansing digestive aid. Take a spoonful of the following concoction after a meal or mix w/vinegar & garum for salad dressing…

2TB cumin; 1TB each of ginger, rosemary, white pepper; finely minced date; pound in mortar; mix w/5oz honey, then w/5tsp white wine vinegar.

Minutal ex praecoquis (Apricot stew): original calls for cubed ham. I make it as vegetarian side dish. It’s sweet & goes well w/savoury meat

Apricot Stew: oil, garum, shallot, pepper, cumin, mint, aniseed, honey, wine, vinegar, apricots; stew til tender. Thicken w/flour. Serve hot

My Greek white-wine vinegar has acquired a strange waxy sediment, so I’ll switch that bottle over to the “household cleaning supplies” cabinet and trundle off to the market for more vinegar, apricots, and—because the original recipe does call for it—some manner of meat to cube.

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