Archive for the ‘digging out the details’ Category


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!

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Ready for drizzling with honey and sprinkling with cinnamon

Ready for drizzling with honey and with sprinkling cinnamon


  • 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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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.

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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:

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


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!

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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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Saturnalia food

I’ve had something flu-like for the past week, so I haven’t had much appetite for either eating or cooking. I’m going to take a look at the ancient cookbook and see what it advises for knocking out a cold and revving up the appetite when Saturnalia season is starting and constant feasting is required. I’ll post some recipes tonight 🙂

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It’s the release day for the Knife of Narcissus omnibus!

Come for a visit every day next week for some free stories, more chapters from upcoming books, more ancient recipes, and general Saturnalia hijinks. There may very well be gladiators—it could happen! I won’t rule out gladiators.

After such a long time living every moment with the serial, I have all sorts of feels about putting it out there now as an all-in-one version. A fellow author asked me a few questions about the process (and I’ll be talking about her books next week too—great ones for Romanophiles, and contemporary stories also). Now that I’ve had time to reflect soberly, drunkenly, and under the influence of very sweet and highly caffeinated beverages, I have a few thoughts to share about it all here, too.

But mostly, December is a great excuse to experiment with a lot more Roman recipes and to share the results!

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And once again there’s a guest post, review, and giveaway at Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews. This installment’s guest post is on dubious consent, non-con, and writing about slaves in the series.

KoN 5 GIveaway


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Here’s the recipe as tweeted:layers

The sauce: crush celery seed, oregano, mint, ginger, coriander, raisins, honey, vinegar, oil, wine. And…this one is going to take 280.

The rest: In a clay baking dish put down layers of bread, cooked chicken breasts, pine nuts, diced onion, sharp cheese, sauce. Cover & bake.

For 6 boneless (raw) chicken breasts I used:

  • 2 tsp celery seeds
  • 6 tsp oregano
  • 3 TBSP mint (you may prefer less, but I like to go heavy on the mint)
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1-1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 4 tsp honey
  • 4 tsp vinegar
  • 4 tsp white cooking wine
  • more white cooking wine, because the bottle was right there
  • 2 cups pine nuts (in my opinion, you can’t have too much, for this recipe)
  • 3 rolls of bread with sturdy crust (I used par-baked rolls), sliced lengthwise in thirds
  • 8 thick slices of sharp cheddar (enough to cover the chicken on each layer)
  • 5 chopped shallots
  • pepper for garnish, if desired
  • surprisingly, no fermented fish sauce
  • I forgot the olive oil…probably because it was two in the morning…

herbsshallotsbread and raisins
Pound together the first six ingredients with the honey, vinegar, and wine. I layered the bread, chicken, sauce, shallots, and pine nuts (two layers fit the pot nicely) and cooked in a lidded Romertopf—soaked in water while I was at work, then placed in a cold oven, temperature set to 450F, and baked for about an hour and a quarter. An hour would probably have been enough, but I’m paranoid about cooking chicken thoroughly. After removing it from the oven, I let it sit in the clay baker for another 15 minutes.

Stray observation: I probably should have saved some of the sauce to pour (before cooking) over the top layer of bread, which came out crusty. Another alternative would be to cube the top layer of bread like stuffing (which is essentially what the other layers become). A variant on the recipe calls for layers of cucumbers as well and chilling the casserole and serving it jellied, which is a very different effect. Also one hard that’s to create if you don’t have snow handy in your ancient kitchen.

patinaapiciana_7finalAnd now I’m too sleepy to eat more than a few bites, so I’ll leave you with a picture of the results…

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Roman Chicken

Two in the morning and the Chicken à la Apicius is in the oven.

I should probably set the alarm clock.

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