In Cato’s day, it was made by mixing alica (large spelt grains) with flour and water; the dought has to be shaped round and then coated with oil, and then placed in the oven (Cato De Agr. 86).
2 kg wheat flour
1 kg spelt seeds
water added to make a dough
Soak the spelt seeds in water until they become soft; drain them and mash them until they make a compact paste. GRadually add the flour until it is assorbed; when the dough is the right consistency- not too sticky or too dry- mark various ‘tracks’ or lines across the dough that you will make into strips, then roll it out and dry over a rack. Next, rub the strips with an oiled cloth and leave them to dry in the air or in a warmed oven.
Once dried, the strips can be used as pasta with a favorite sauce. Or use durum (hard wheat) flour and water, and continue as above, again making pasta; or you can roll them out round and fry them in oil, dusting them with cinnamon once they are cooled, as a dessert; or cook on an iron grill, over an open flame, and serve like tortillas.
“Or even the downy leaves of tender mint- often again, chopping up fresh pepper or Median cress” (Athen. 2.66d)
30 gr mint leaves
30 gr green peppercorns (pickled)
30 gr safflower (false saffron)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 tablespoon olive oil
Crush the peppercorns, mint, safflower and salt in a mortar; add oil and vinegar and stir..
The recipe of Cato is perfect as an appetizer: “pick the olives before they turn black. Take any growths off of them and place them in a water bath. Change the water frequently and when they are well soaked, separate them and toss them in vinegar, adding oil and 170 gr of saltt per eight and one half liters of olives. When you are ready to use them, take them of the marinade, season them with fennel and a myrtle branch that has been soaked in oil.” (Cato De Agr. 107)
The water has to be changed daily for a week; the water should have at least 100gr per 8 liters when soaking the olives- rinse the olives before serving.
Olives pickled in fennel
“First of all, cover them with cold pickling sauce so that they maintain their color; when there are enough gathered to fill a jar, cover the bottom of the jar with fennel and myrtle branches that have been prepared in a small kettle. Now take the olives out of the pickling, towel them dry, and mix in seeds, completely refilling the jar. Finally cover the top with dry anise and 2 part of dry, fresh mustard and 1 of oil/vinegar brine. Olives treated this way will last a year.” The olives, as in the previous recipe, should remain in the brine for several days to a week before they are eaten.
Sauce for sea urchins
Sauce from Archippus, Fishes
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon mint
1 tablespoon parsley
Dissolve the honey in the vinegar, then finaly mince the parsley and mint and mix the spices into the honey and vinegar. When ready to eat the urchins, split them in two, cleaning away the spine. Find and clean the egg, pour a dollop of the sauce on the egg in the shell and..enjoy.
Wild hyacinth bulbs (lampascioni)
The bulbs have terrible bitterness, and to render them edible, the bulbs should be boiled, with numerous changes of water. Then they are peeled and a sauce is made to season them.
1 teaspoon each thyme and oregano
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon each honey, vinegar and wine must
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoon minced dates
salt to taste
Mix all sauce ingredients and pour over the bulbs, adding fresh pepper to taste.
A recipe for these bulbs with aphrodisiac power: “for those searching for the joys of Venus, boil wild hyacinth bulbs in water, and for the true honeymoon, serve them with pine nuts and a sauce made by boiling arugula and adding pepper.” (Apicius, 7. 14.3)
1 dozen wild hyacinth bulbs, already cleaned and boiled several times, or, if already marinated, rinse the bulbs until there is no more oil
20 gr arugula
a handful of pine nuts
Boil the arugula for about three minutes, then drain it and put it in a blender with 1 teaspoon pepper. Pour the warm green sauce over warm bulbs and add a sprinkling of pine nuts.
Thrion- stuffed leaves
These are none other than the stuffed grape leaves that can be found everywhere in Hellas even today; in ancient times, fresh, tender fig leaves called ‘thrion’ were used instead of grape leaves (in some parts of Hellas, they are still made with fig leaves and they are almost
identical to those made with grape leaves, though a bit sweeter). Today the filling vary, and this was probably true in ancient times as well.
20 grape or fig leaves, ready (either prepared by boiling fresh leaves, or from a jar already spiced)
260 gr spelt
2 cups broth or water, plus extra for the final cooking
1 teaspoon salt
3 medium onions, sliced thickly
600 gr plain yoghurt
60 ml olive oil
2 tablespoons butter (to soften onions)
Toss the leaves in boiling water, remove them after a few moments, and put them on a work surface. Select a copper pan that will allow the rolls to snugly fit one next to the other. Use any broken leaves to completely line the bottom of the pan, overlapping to ensure you cover the whole surface; this will help the rolled stufed leaves stay put during cooking.
Mix the grain and salt and cook until tender in the broth or water. When this is done, pinch off small pieces of the past, forming them into finger-sized sausage-like rolls of filling.
To stuff the grape leaves, start by stretching out the leaf and placing a roll of filling in the center; fold up one end and the sides, rolling the leaf around the mixture like a cigar, making them about 5 cm long by 2 cm wide, making sure to tuck in the ends to prevent leakage. When the rolls are all in the pan, cover them with broth or water and oil and place a plate on top, to weigh down the rolls during cooking. Cook over a low flame for about one hour, checking frequently to make sure there is sufficient liquid in the pan.
About 15 minutes before the rolls are done, make the sauce: sauté the onions in the butter until soft but not brown. Add the yoghurt and a bit of the cooking water, and pour this sauce over the rolls as you are ready to serve them.
“When making a dish of goat, lamb, or a chicken freshly killed, throw fresh grain (barley) in a pan and crush it well, mixing in fragrant oil. When the broth is boiling vigorously, put in the rest, then cover the pan with a lidd and leave it to cook, covered, because that way the heavy mixture swells. Serve with a tablespoon of new wine.” (Nicander of Colophon fr. 68 Schneider)
1 cup cooked barley
shredded lamb or chicken- cooked
1 tablespoon parsley
3 sages leaves
500 ml broth
60 ml olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
“The sweetest of delicacies”
(Ath. 4. 158c)
450 gr lentils
2 liters broth
1 large minced leek
1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, and 1 small onion- all sliced
1 teaspoon honey
12 coriander seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the lentils thoroughly, then put them into a pot with the broth to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. When the hour is up, skim the top, add the vegetables and leave simmer again until it is cooked (about 30 minutes). If the soup seems too watery, pass some of the lentils through a sieve. Now add the vinegar and the honey. Pour into serving bowls and add a good dollop of olive oil, sprinkling on coriander seeds and salt and pepper to taste.