Plakous, pelanos and other ‘cakes’ of the Hellenic Tradition

(Translation from Italian into English by Adrian Bedford, from Hellenismo, Comunità Hellena Italiana)

 

“Many members of the group have provided lists with the names of cakes, and I would like to share as many as I can remember with you …”

There are many references to “cakes”, both textual and in vase paintings, on coins, etc. … The most common Greek terms are plakous, pelanos, popanon and pemma, in Latin libum (Cato gives us the recipe: “You make the libum like so: in a mortar, pound two pounds of cheese to a pulp. When you have made a perfectly smooth mixture, work it well…”). A relief from Taranto shows a fine image of Demeter bearing a torch and a basket of cakes that seem to have an omphalos in the centre; numerous scenes depicted on vases show the Gods banqueting, and there are often cakes such as the plakous or the pyramis on the table (Dionysos, Herakles …> Richter 1936, pls 152, 153; Arias, Hirmer, and Shefton 1962, pl. 32). There is a votive relief (Louvre 756) where one can see a basket brimming with sacrificial cakes shaped like doughnuts, some of which have just been placed on the altar. Baskets filled with other types of cakes (round, pyramidal, etc. ) may often be seen on vases, and the same representations frequently appear on reliefs of the ‘Hero’s Banquet ‘. Although very rare, some anthropomorphic cakes, probably linked to the cult of Persephone have been found and identified in Locri in a scene depicted on pinakes.

The term ‘Pemma’ refers to a small cake, but we must bear in mind that sometimes the cereal element may be wholly lacking, and be replaced by other ingredients such as nuts or dried fruit. The word ‘Pemma’ is generally used to refer to the cakes offered to Demeter, Zeus and Athena (Herodotus 1.160, Pausanias 1.38.6; Antiphon 174.2; Athenaeus 12e, 172c-e, 642a, 645e, 648a, LSS 109, line 4; LSCG 152, line 6; LSAM 9, line 21; LSAM 57, line 3; LSAM 145.)

Galen, however, devotes the first book of his ‘De alimentorum facultatibus’ to the role of cereals in the human diet. The Hippocratic physician begins with a consideration of the virtues of bread, the food par excellence derived from the fruit of Demeter Herself. Soon after, his discussion focuses on the theme of the pemmata. These medical notes, so like a recipe book, are not sparing in the details of their preparation and cooking methods: he tells us to fry a mixture of water and flour in oil heated in a pan over a high heat, turning the cake/fritter several times until it is evenly fried. The cakes, to which he attributes astringent therapeutic qualities, are then normally coated in hot honey, “although some prefer to garnish them with sea salt.” Galen places pemmata in the category of cakes normally consumed on all kinds of occasions including the festivals of the polis and at private banquets. Pemmata are also mentioned in connection with offerings to the dead, as they were thrown into the graves adjacent to house-pits (bothroi): these are anthropomorphic pemmata, described in Heliod. Aeth. 6.14.3-6.

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‘Plakous’, often translated as ‘cheese pie’, is mentioned in many texts, both religious and secular. Galen points out that there are many types of plakous found in rural areas, made from rough and ready ingredients. The basic ingredients were, of course, cheese, honey and flour, as described by Antiphanes (fragment 55). It was said that the Athenian ones were particularly good, due to the excellent quality of Attic honey. (Athenaeus D 449c). They should be drenched with melted honey, which will gradually blend in, releasing its flavour, while still hot, to become almost inseparable from the pastry and the filling of fresh goat’s milk cheese (the typical filling of plakountes). They were apparently irresistible, at least judging by the words of Athenaeus: “When I saw the large, round, golden, sweet, soft child of Demeter arrive, a warm plakous …”

Here is Cato’s recipe: mix wheat flour and spelt flour to make a smooth mixture, then leave it to dry. At this point, you have to roll it out to make very thin layers, which you spread with olive oil and bake in the oven. Then you have to make a cream from goat’s cheese and honey. Lastly, take an earthenware pot and lay out alternate layers of pastry and cream, ending with a layer of pastry, and start baking (no more than half an hour at 150 °). Then, when it is browned and ready, take it out of the oven and drizzle with honey.

The plakous was often offered in sacrifices, as a religious calendar from 5th century Miletus clearly shows. It was also one of the foods contained in the liknon and carried in procession by the liknophoros (Anecd. Graec. I, p. 277). A poem of the 3rd century BCE describes the gift of a child to Apollo, after his hair was cut for the first time: a cock and a sizeable plakous with a cheese filling (Anth. Pal 6.55). A variant is the plakous triablomos, a cake divided into three parts by grooves radiating out from the ‘central node’ (there are examples among the findings in the Athenian Agora).

Kribanai are a kind of plakous that Athenaeus, citing Sosibius (Spartan source) describes as being breast-shaped. “Spartans use them during women’s feast days, and the members of the chorus lead them in procession when they are about to sing the encomium to the bride.”

 

The popanon is the form of cake most commonly offered on the altar. Alongside the four popana there may also be a fifth cake, the pemptos bous, the fifth ox. This is a round cake, quite large but light, with a central ‘knob or bulge’ (Photios s.v. popana). It is possible to identify the popanon monomphalon with this kind of cake, which is offered to Artemis, Leto, Heracles, Hermes and Kourotrophos (in an inscription of the IV century BCE from Piraeus on the cult of Artemis and Leto, and another of the third to second centuries BCE from an Athenian calendar, and a calendar from Samos which tells of Hermes and the Kourotrophos).

In the preliminary sacrifices it is often associated with the Two Goddesses (Aristophanes, Pluto 660; Thesmophoria 285; IV century inscription regarding the cult of Asclepius: three popana in Maleatis, and also three for Apollo and Hermes). A popanon should be offered to Zeus Georgos, the Winds, and Heracles (from a 1st century CE calendar from Athens).

The flat popanon kathemenon is offered to Poseidon, Kronos, Apollo and Artemis (Athenian calendar, 1st century CE).

The popana polyomphala have several ‘knobs’, usually five: four on the sides and one in the centre, connected by a cross. In the famous likna found in the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore on the Acrocorinth, many different kinds may be seen with four, five, seven or eight knobs. One kind with twelve knobs was called popana dodekonphala and was offered to the Two Goddesses, to Heracles, Apollo, Artemis, Zeus Georgos, Poseidon, the Winds, and Kronos (Athenian calendar, 1st century CE).

 

The pelanos was a cake which was also used in offerings. The ‘pelanos’ was a cake made from wheat flour obtained from the plain of the Rharus that was offered to the Goddesses during the Great Mysteries (Aristophanes, Pluto 676-81; Euripides fragment 912 Nauck; Polybius 6. 25.7; Suda under ‘anastatoi’, quoting fragment 350 of Euripides Nauck; Eustathius, commentary on the Iliad 4. 263.

 

The pankarpia was the offering of all kind of fruits in the form of a cake, and came in different forms. Euripides describes it as a pelanos. Theophrastus, on other hand, described it as a melitoutta – in this case we know that the herb gatherers recalled that this offering was to be dedicated to the Earth after gathering particular sacred herbs. (Sophocles fragment 398 Radt; Euripides fragment 912 Nauck, Theophrastus HP 9.8.7). Its most usual form was that of a round cake prepared by breaking up the itria and boiling them in honey. They were then rolled into balls and wrapped in sheets of papyrus to maintain their shape, until they had cooled. In a 1st century CE calendar for private worship, they are offered to Zeus and Zeus Georgos and Ktesios (Athenaeus 473c, 648b; LSCG 52, line 15.

 

Another cake widely used in sacrifice is the amphiphon, specific to Athens. It was a cheese pie on which candles were lit, offered to Artemis on the day of the full moon in the month of Mounichion. Philemon, in the ‘Beggar Woman’ or the ‘Girl of Rhodes’ says: “Artemis, beloved lady: I bring thee this amphiphon, o lady, cakes to offer.” Diphilus also refers to this in his ‘Hecate’. Philocorus says that an amphiphon would be brought to the temples of Artemis or to a crossroads, because on this day the moon sets at the same as the sun rises, and the sky is lit by both.” (Athenaeus D 645a, citing Philochorus)

 

In Delos there were the basynias, a honey cake garnished with a fig and three nuts, offered to Iris on the island of Hekate (Athenaeus D 645b, citing Semus): “on the island of Hekate, the people of Delos offer basyniai, as they are called. They are made of a dough of wheat flour boiled with honey, to which are added what are called coccora (pomegranate seeds), a dried fig and three nuts.”

 

The arister was a cake to be burned in a fire, in honour of Helios, Mnemosyne and the Fates (Pollux 6.76; LSCG2 1.B19, lines 23-24; LSCG2 2, line 2; LSCG2 6, line 2)

 

The kreion was a kind of sweet bread loaf, and in Argo, brides would give it to their husband – it was served with honey.

 

Still in Athens, the Elaphos, a stag-shaped cake made from spelt flour, honey and sesame seeds would be offered at the Elaphebolia (Athenaeus 646c D)

 

The hebdomos bous is a cake shaped like a crescent moon, given in offering together with six phthoeis (F. Sokolowski, Lois sacrées des cités grecques)

 

In Sicily, there was the ‘myllos’ in the shape of the female genitals; it was offered to Demeter and Persephone. “Heraclides of Syracuse in his ‘The customs of Syracuse’ says that at the Panteleia, which is a part of the celebration of the Thesmophoria, cakes in the shape of the female genitalia were made with sesame seeds and honey, and were called mylloi throughout Sicily, and were carried in procession in honour of the Goddesses.” (Athenaeus 647a)

 

In addition, the ‘phthois’, a round cake used in sacrifices, perhaps called Selene, consisting of wheat flour, cheese and honey would be consumed along with the flesh of the animals which had been sacrificed (Athenaeus D 489d, 647d, Eustathius gives us the recipe.) Clement of Alexandria says that it was one of the cakes in the cista mystica. They were usually offered during the sacrifice. In inscriptions, they are associated with Hestia, Zeus, Apollo and Asclepius (Clement, Protr. 2.19; inscription of IVth century BCE from Erythrai and one from the first century CE concerning a sacrifice to Zeus Atabyrios)

 

The Palathion was a flat, oblong cake made from fruit or nuts and pressed with honey. Athenaeus confirms that it was a typical kernos offering (Athenaeus 500d; Theophrastus HP 4.2.10; Sudas under ‘Palathe’)

 

Ames is often translated as ‘milk cake’, and there was also a smaller variety, called ametiskoi: pastries (Aristophanes, Pluto 999, Philo, On Drunkenness 217; Athenaeus 644f)

 

The enkhytos is the Roman encytum, for which Cato provides the recipe: “Mix cheese and spelt flour in equal parts. Take a funnel and pass through it spirals of dough in equal measure in hot lard. Stir the spirals in the lard with two spatulas. Remove, spread with honey and leave to brown in cooler lard. Serve at a moderate temperature with honey or mulsum (white wine with honey) accompanied by a sweet wine.” It seems that in the preparation of this cake there were clear sexual allusions, as Athenaeus, citing Hipponax, states.

 

The ‘gouros’ is mentioned by Solon in his iambics: “They are drinking, and some of them are eating itria*, while others eat bread, and yet others eat gouroi with lentils. Not a single type of ‘pastry’ is lacking there, among all the types that the black earth produces for humankind, but everything is available in abundance. ” It also appears in an elaborate poetic description by Philoxenus of Cythera in dithyrambic style, in his ‘Feast’.

* Itria: the itrion is a light dough made from sesame and honey, described by Anacreon, “I broke off a little crunchy itrion and I had it for lunch, and I drank a cup of wine. Aristophanes’ Acharnians 1092: pies, sesame cakes, itria.

 

The enkris, the Roman globus or globulus, was a doughnut, fried in oil or lard and dipped in honey (Stesichoros 179 Davies Cato DA 79; Petronius S 1.3; Athenaeus D 645e; Hesychius, Lexicon s.v. enkris)

 

Psòthia, i.e., crumbs or bread crumbs; Pherekrates, in his ‘Small Change’ (fr. 86) has: you’ll get small change and psòthia in Hades.

 

The gastris was a Cretan specialty made with walnuts, poppy seeds and sesame seeds. Athenaeus gives us the recipe: walnuts and hazelnuts, together with almonds and poppy seeds, honey, pepper and white sesame seeds. It appears to be almost the same cake described by Plautus, the laterculi – but it also closely resembles the delicious baklava of modern Greek cuisine (Athenaeus D 647f; Plautus, Poenulus 325-6)

 

Another Cretan specialty is cited by Athenaeus, “Glykinai: Cretan cakes made with sweet wine and olive oil, as Seleucus says in his glossary.”

 

The melipekton and melitoutta, names meaning ‘curdled honey’ and ‘tasting of honey’, cakes of which nothing is known apart from their names (Herodotus 8:41 ‘melitoessa’; Aristophanes, Clouds 507, Lysistrata 601)

 

The oinoutta, whose main ingredients are wine and cheese, perhaps resembled the mustaceus (Aristophanes, Plouto 1121 with scholia; Pliny NH 15127; Athenaeus D 647d)

 

The Pyramis and Pyramous were obviously pyramidal in form, like some of the cakes depicted on earthenware. On one vessel, showing a scene from an initiation (probably Eleusinian), a child bears a great kiste where round cakes and pyramid-shaped pies are clearly visible. In another scene, a woman wearing a crown bears a basket full of such cakes. Callimachus suggests that the pyramous was given as a reward to those who had remained awake during the night ceremonies (pannychis). Conversely, Athenaeus associates this prize with the kharisios (Athenaeus D 646b, 647c). Plutarch (Sympos.lib. IX quaest. 15) states that it was given as a reward to the young winners in gymnastics contests or at the Pyrrhic dance. (Suda under ‘pyramous’; Photios under pyrameidés; Schol. Aristophanes Thesmophoria 94, Cavalieri 277; Clem. Protr. 2.19)

 

The ‘Sesame’ or ‘sesamis’ was a round cake, made from a mixture of sesame seeds, olive oil and honey, served at Athenian weddings. Antiphanes in Deucalion refers to “sesamides or honey cakes or something of the kind.” (179 Stesichorus Davies, Athenaeus D 646f; Aristophanes, Peace 869). It is one of the cakes contained in the cista mystica contained in the rites of Dionysos and Gaia, according to Clement of Alexandria (Clem. Protr 2.19). A Spartan calendar dedicated to the chthonic gods prescribes offering this cake to Demeter and Despoina.

 

The Tagenites, taganies, or tagenias was a sort of crêpe or pancake consisting simply of flour and water, as can be understood from Galen’s description. (Galen AF 6. 490-1; Athenaeus D 110b, 646b, 646e). This is also confirmed by Hipponax in a verse: “while eating hazel and rabbit, season the teganitas dough fried with sesame seeds” (PLG 4.2. 474)

 

Amorbites: the only thing we know about this cake (Athen. 14.646f) is that it is a Sicilian specialty, and from its etymological root, we can infer that it has to do with shepherds and the countryside, and some scholars have speculated that it contained honey and ricotta cheese.

Empeptas: from the description that we find in Athenaeus, (14,645) it seems that it was a cake made from various cheeses, roughly akin to the French ‘vol au vent’.

Diakonion: “when the Athenians celebrate the so-called Eiresione in honour of Apollo, sounding lyre and cymbals and some bearing branches, and others bearing round cakes called diakonion … also Ameria says that the diakonia are the cakes prepared for Apollo’s Eiresione ceremony … some say it is a cake of barley meal. ” (Suda s.v.)

 

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Ancient Greek recipes- 4° part

 

Ancient ‘pizza’

2 cups organic whole spelt flour
aprox 3/4 cup water
pinch sea salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp olive oil

Blend the spelt and dried oregano and knead, adding the water, salt and olive oil gradually until it is a uniform, elastic mass. If it sticks, add a little more flour. Knead for 5 minutes, then cover with a wet cloth and let it sit for about 10, 15 minutes. Afterwards, roll out with a rolling pin in a circle as wide as your pan. In a non- stick pan, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil. Turn the heat on medium, place the pan on the heat and let it heat for about 30 seconds. “Drop” the dough in the pan and fry on each side for about 2 minutes. The dough will bubble when it is frying – it’s very much like making pita bread.
When the dough is golden-brown on each side, place on a serving plate, drizzle with runny honey (2 Tbsp honey and 1 Tbsp warm water), sesame seeds (about 1 Tbsp), goat cheese (aprox. one cup) and a little bit on sea salt, just for enhancing the taste. Best served with olives on the side, arugula salad.

 

Sauce for Roast Fish

1 teaspoon pepper
1 dry onion
2 tablespoon vinegar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoon dill
1 tablespoon oil

Crush pepper, lovage, satury, dry onions; moisten with vinegar, add dill, yolks of egg, honey, vinegar, broth and oil; all this mix thoroughly and underlay the fish with it.
If properly handled, it might turn out to be a highly seasoned mayonnaise, or a vinaigrette, depending on the mode of manipulation; either would be suitable for fried or broiled fish.

 

Stuffed Sardines

500g cooked and boned sardines
½ tsp ground pepper
½ tsp lovage seeds
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp rue
150g stoned dates
1 tbsp honey
4 hard-boiled eggs
50ml white wine
3 tbsp green olive oil (cold-pressed)
sprig of watercress to garnish

Sprinkle the surfaces of the sardines with freshly-ground pepper and fry for 2-3 minutes per side until thoroughly cooked. Once cooked, allow to cool and remove the backbone by taking hold of the tail and pulling it out through the body cavity. Finely chop the herbs and dates, transfer to a bowl and add all the liquid ingredients. Mix together well and use this to stuff the body cavities of the sardines. Arrange the stuffed sardines on a plate, quarter the boiled eggs and place around the sardines. Finally garnish with some watercress and serve.

Sauce for eggs

120g shelled pine nut kernels
large pinch of chopped lovage (or celery leaves if not available)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A pinch of salt and pepper

Soak the pine kernels for a couple of hours in water then drain and let them dry. Place the lovage, pepper and salt in a mortar with the pine kernels and grind them with a pestle until they form a smooth paste. Mix this paste with the honey and vinegar and pour over some boiled or poached eggs (the original recipe calls for poached eggs, but this works just as well with halved boiled eggs).

 

Poached Egg in White Wine

6 eggs
3 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp dry white wine
6 tbsp olive oil

Take six ramekin dishes and grease them with a tablespoon each of olive oil. Crack an egg into each ánd place into a large pyrex dish. Fill to half-way up the ramekins with boling water. Very carefully pour a tablespoon of wine and half a tablespoon of fish sauce. Cover with a lid (or aluminium foil) and place in an oven pre-heated to 190°C for fifteen minutes. Serve immediately.

 

Mystron

2 cups pearl barley
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cups chicken broth

Place barley, oil, and broth in a rice steamer. Cook until done. (Alternatively, combine ingredients in a large pot and cook on a stovetop as directed for barley) Serve in hollowed out bread loaves (optional).
‘Nicander of Colophon is the author who employs the word mystron when describing the use of the word barley groats in the first of his two books On Farming. He writes: “But when you are making a dish of fresh kid or lamb or capon, put some barley groats in a mortar, pound them well, then stir in some ripe olive oil. When the stock is boiling hard, pour it over the pounded groats, put the lid on the pot and steam it; for when it is cooked in this way, the heavy meal swells up. Serve it when lukewarm in hollow mystra.”

 

Chickpeas with Cheese

200g dry chick peas
100g Parmesan cheese (Pecorino Romano would also work well)
olive oil
Twist of black pepper and salt to taste

Soak the chick peas in water for about 1 night. Drain and place in salted water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 40 minutes or until tender. Drain the water and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile grate the cheese and add a twist of black pepper. Add the cheese to the chickpeas and mash with a fork. Add a little extra virgin olive oil, mash this in and serve whilst still warm.

Nut omelette

60 gr nibbed almonds
60 gr broken walnuts
30 gr pine kernel
30 gr clear honey
60 ml white wine
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
ground black pepper
15 ml olive oil

Combine all the nuts and roast them in the oven at 180° for 10 minutes. Pound or grind them down to a uniform texture resembling coarse breadcrumbs. Place in a bowl and add honey, wine, milk, salt and eggs, and beat smooth. Season with black pepper. Heat the olive oil in a no-stick frying-pan and pour in the mixture. Cook as for a basic omelette and grill or 1 or 2 minutes to set the top.

 

Glykinai (Wine Cakes)

200g fine white flour
60ml olive oil
80ml wine
1 egg white, beaten
Put the flour into a bowl and form an indentation in the middle. Pour the oil into this and with your fingers start rubbing the oil and flour together until the mixture forms breadcrumbs. Add the Caroenum and knead into a smooth dough. Cover in clingfilm and set aside in the fridge for an hour. Place the dough on a floured surface and roll thinly. Cut into 3–cm rounds and arrange on a greased baking tray. Brush each biscuit (cookie) with beaten egg white to glaze and place in an oven pre-heated to 190°C and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool before serving.

 

Ancient Greek recipes- 3° part

 

Gastris

Filling:
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked overnight
1/2 cup dark raisins, soaked overnight
1 cup almonds, soaked and blanched
1 cup dried apricots, soaked
8 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups hazelnuts
1/2 cup walnuts, soaked overnight
2 cups poppy seeds
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper (optional but highly recommended)
Water as needed

Crust:
3 Tbsp honey
2 cups sesame seeds

In a medium pan, dry toast the poppy seeds on medium heat for 1 minute. Transfer the poppy seeds in a separate contained and toast the hazelnuts the same way. Add all the ingredients for the filling in a blender, starting with the soaked dried fruits, then adding the almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts, then the honey and olive oil. At last, add the poppy seeds and the pepper. If the mixture gets too dry, add cold water, one tablespoon at a time. The mixture should not have a liquid consistency. You need a strong blender for this.
The crust: blend together the sesame seeds and the honey until you have obtained a homogeneous mixture.
Assemblage:
Divide the sesame paste into two equal parts. Spread the first half on a parchment paper lined 8X11 pan, add the filling on top, pressing down with the back of a spoon until it is evenly spread in the pan. Add the second half of the sesame seed on top of the filling and refrigerate for at least eight hours. Cut in squares and serve.

 

Patina Zomoteganon
“Arrange any chosen fish, uncooked in a pan. Add oil, fish sauce, wine, a bouquet of leek and coriander. While it cooks crush pepper, rub in a bouquet of lovage and oregano, add the juice from the cooked fish, beat in raw eggs, blend. Empty into the pan, allow to bind. When set, season with pepper and serve.” (Apicius, 4, 2, 27)
This simple dish can be made with any fish- I find it particularly good with white fish such as sole or plaice.

2 fillets of sole
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
150 ml white wine
1 bouquet garni of leek and fresh coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
2 eggs

Place the fillets in a backing dish and pour on the oil, fish sauce and wine. Add the bouquet garni and bake in a pre-heated oven at 190° for 20 minutes. Remove; drain off the cooking liquid and reserve. In a mortar pound the pepper, lovage, oregano and the cooked bouquet. Flush out the mixture with the cooking liquid and mix in the eggs. Pour this over the fish and return to the oven until it has set. Serve immediateley sprinkled with freshy ground black pepper.

Alternative: Patina of asparagus
“Put asparagus tips in a mortar, pound, add wine, sieve. Pound pepper, lovage, fresh coriander, savory, onion, wine, fish sauce, oil. Put purée and spices in a greased shallow pan, and, if you wish, break eggs over it while cooking, so that it sets. Sprinkle ground pepper.” (Apicius 4. 2.6)

 

A country soup

Below an indicative list of herbs, but one can use almost any greens that suit your fancy:

1/2 liter cold water per person
(2 sliced potatoes per person: optional)
1 cardoon
hops
1 bunch of chicory
1 bunch of salad greens
1 bunch of red poppy flowers
1 bunch of borage
2 tablespoon of lard
chopped green peppers to taste
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
a dash of sage
basil to taste

Put cold, lightly salted water in a pot and add the potatoes; when they are nearly cooked, add the greens, cut into large pieces. Peel the cardoon and chop coarsely. Next add the lard, pepper, garlic, onion, sage and basil, and stir. Let it boil for 25 minutes- serve it in a bowl on top of a slice of crusty country bread.

 

Bream in cheese and oil
(Archestratus 13)

1 sea bream or porgy
250 gr pecorino romano cheese
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Clean and descale carefully the fish; break up the cheese and put it in a mortar with the oil. Work for few minutes until you have a firm, smooth paste. Brush a non-stick baking tray with olive oil and lie the fish on this. Spread half the cheese mixture over the fish, ensuring that the skin is completely hidden by the cheese. Carefully turn over the fish and repeat. Heat the oven to 220° and bake the fish for 20 minutes. Take it out of the oven, carefully turn it over and return for a further 10 to 15 minutes. Mix the salt and the cumin together and sprinkle it over the crust. Finish with a tablespoon of olive oil dribbled over the fish.

 

Baked Fish of Archestratus

“The best fish you can find..sprinkle with marjoram. Wrap the fish in fig leaves and bake. Have the slaves serve it on silver platters.”

1 white fish (cod, sole, flounder)
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
salt and pepper
1 lemon, juice of
4 green onions, sliced the long way
12 fig leaves or 12 grape leaves, drained and rinsed
1 cup dry white wine

Cut fish into 1-cm-square pieces. Sprinkle with marjoram, salt and pepper, and lemon juice. Pour hot water over the fig leaves to soften, or rinse the canned grape leaves in cold water. Spread leaves out one by one. Place a piece of fish and a bit of green onion on a leaf and wrap it up, tucking in the sides as you roll. Place the rolls side by side in an oblong baking pan and pour the wine over all. Bake in a preheated oven at 200° for 20 minutes, uncovered, then serve.

An alternative: “The best way to present this fish I mean, then in fig leaves with not too much origano is the way. No cheese, no fancy nonsense. Simply place it with care in the fig leaves and tie them with rush-cord from above. Then put into hot ashes and use your intelligence to workout the time when it will be roasted: don’t let it burn up.”

Salad Dressing

30g lovage leaves (substitute young celery leaves if not available)
½ tsp raisins
¼ dried mint
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
A pinch of salt and pepper.

Finely chop the lovage leaves and the raisins. Place these in a small bowl and add the other ingredients. Whisk to mix properly then serve with the green salad.

 

Hazelnuts with Herb Purée

100g hazelnuts (or walnuts if desired)
Handful of fresh parsley
80ml olive oil
80ml red wine vinegar
½ tsp ground black pepper
125g Feta cheese
Handful of fresh coriander
2 or 3 mint leaves
Sprig of rue
sea salt to taste

Shell the hazelnuts and roast under a hot grill for five minutes, ensuring you turn them frequently to prevent burning. Allow the hazelnuts to cool and remove as much of the skin as you can. Roughly chop the cheese into cubes. Put this as well as the hazelnuts, herbs and black pepper in the mortar. Add the olive oil and wine vinegar then blend into a smooth paste. Pour the purée into a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with lightly-toasted baguette rounds.

 

Honeyed Quinces

10 quinces (Pears can be substituted but quinces are tarter. If using pears reduce the honey by 1/3 and add the juice of half a lime)
100ml honey
cinnamon
250ml sweet white wine

Peel, core and dice the quinces and put them in a saucepan. Add the wine and homey and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes until they are soft (reduce the time for pears). Transfer to a blender and puree. Pour into individual bowls and chill in the fridge before serving.

Dates Alexandrine-style

20 whole dates
20 blanched almonds
cinnamon
25g butter
honey

Heat the butter until just molten then stone the dates. Dip the almonds in butter and roll the in the cinnamon before stuffing one into each date. Place in an oven-proof dish and coat each date in honey. Pour over the remaining butter and bake in a very hot oven (210°C) for 5–8 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

Ancient Greek recipes- 2° part…

 

Kapyria

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.

Mint sauce

“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..

Green olives

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.

Sauce:
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.

Kondros

“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 onion
1 tablespoon parsley
3 sages leaves
500 ml broth
60 ml olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Lentil soup
“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
2tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
olive oil
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.

Ancient Greek recipes- 1° part..

Athenian Cheese Cake
Archestratus wrote “Forget all other dessert, there is only one: the Athenian cheese cake with Attica honey from Hymettus.”

Filling:
4 eggs, separated
12/ cup honey or sugar
1 lemon, juice and rind
1/2 cup flour
1 pond pot cheese
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
Crust:
1 cup crumbs from zwiback rusks, cookies or graham crackers
1/4 cup ground walnuts or almonds
2 tablespons oil or butter

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff (with a sprinkle of salt). In a blender blend yolks, honey, lemon juice, rind, floud and cheese for a few seconds. Fold batter into egg whites using spatula. Fold in sour cream. In a separate bowl mix crumbs and nuts together. Grease the bottom and sides of a large cake pan or spring-form cake pan. Spread crumbs over bottom and sides. Pour mixture in cake pan and bake at 180/200° for 45 minutes. Chill in cake pan 6 hours before cutting and serving.

Artolaganon

“But in making the so-called artolaganon, a little wine, pepper, and milk are introduced, along with a small quantity of oil or lard. Similarly into kapyria, called by the Romans tracta, are put mixtures as into the wheat-wafer”

3 1/2 cups flour (350 g)
1 tablespoon salt
yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lard
1/4 cup white wine (60 ml)
1/4 cup milk (60 ml)
pepper to taste

Put the flour in a bowl, mix in the salt, and make a well in the middle. Pour the yeast and water into the well, then mix gently. Transfer to a floured board and knead (flour hands frequently) until dough is compact, elastic, and smooth. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place. When it has doubled its volume (about 20-30 minutes), knead it and add the remaining ingredients mix evenly and add flour as needed. Set it to rise again (about 20 minutes). Punch it down an spread it evenly in an oiled rectangular pan; let it rise once more (about 20 minutes). When it has risen, cook it in a hot oven (250°) for about 20 minutes, or until done in the middle and golden brown on top.

Staititae
The combination of honey and sesame was a common one and recurs in many guises, sometimes rolled in sesame and some-times in poppy seeds. This version derives from Athenaeus: ‘the soft dough is poured upon a frying pan and on it are spread honey, sesame and cheese’.
1 tablespoon honey
120gr plain flour
200ml water
pinch salt
oil for frying
Topping
cheese
honey
toasted sesame seeds
Mix the honey, water and flour into a dough. Heat a pan then add a little oil. Add the dough a tablespoonful at a time and cook like a pancake on both sides.Spread with warmed cheese and honey then dredge with toasted sesame seeds.
Apanthrakis
from Athenaeus (3.110b).5 cups of flour (500 g)
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup sour milk (250 ml) (to make sour milk add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to milk and stir to blend)
yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup warm water (250 ml)
1/4 cup olive oil (60 ml)

Mix the flour and salt, place in a mound and make a well in the center. Pour in the oil, sour milk, honey water and yeast. Work the dough in the normal manner (bring flour into wet ingredients slowly mixing with hands, then knead) until it is smooth and elastic. Place in a warm place protected from drafts for about two hours. Punch down and knead the risen dough again, and cut into 10 or 12 pieces. Roll each piece out with a rolling pin to make it round. Place on a well greased baking sheet in a warm spot to rise again (30-40 minutes). Finally, bake them for 20 minutes in a hot oven (200°).

Teganites
The Roman Physician Galinos (129 – 99 ac) describes in his book this sweet with many details.
120 gr flour
225 ml water
2 spoons honey
Oil for frying
1 spoon (15 gr) baked sesame seeds
Mix the flour, the water and one spoon of honey and make a dough. Heat 2 spoons oil in a frying pan and pour ¼ of the mixture. When it thickens turn it upside down 2 -3 times to fry it in both sides. Prepare 3 more fritters following the given instructions. Serve them hot, pour over the rest of the honey and dredge sesame seeds over them.
Olive spread
This recipe is recorded by Cato and uses all the main flavourings of the time. Really fine on a piece of warm flatbread with some hummous like chickpea dip.
100gr pitted green olives
100gr pitted black olives
50ml olive oil
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1 teaspoon each – crushed cumin seed, coriander seed then1 tablespoon chopped mint, rue and fennel leaves.
Archaic BreadThis ancient recipe is described by Athenaeus:

2 cups warm water or scalded milk cooled to lukewarm
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons barley meal
6 cups flour, barley or stone ground whole wheat

Mix all ingredients except flour into a 2 quart jar. Place jar in a pan of hot water and let stand in a warm place free of drafts until fermentation begins–aproximately twelve hours or more. Replace hot water every 4 hours. Mix in 2 cups of the flour. Set aside once again in a warm place. Replace hot water in pan. A sponge should be formed in 4 to 6 hours. Put 4 cups flour in a bowl, make a well, and add sponge. Kneed well, lightly dusting your hands with flour until dough is smooth. Shape and put into oiled loaf pan. Cover with damp towel and place in a draft-free place to rise for 4 to 6 hours. It will not rise as high as modern breads. Bake in preheated over at 250° for 10 minutes. Reduct to 200° 50 minutes.

Boned OystersThis recipe comes from Chares of Mytilene:

“Use only the large Asiatic oysters caught in the Indian Ocearn, Black Sea, or the Persian and Arabian gulfs. Use the delicious white meat only. Discard the round white bone sometimes discovered inside theshell–or give it to some Persian. They seem to prefer these bones to gold; they call them ‘pearls’.”

1 dozen oysters
1 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
salt and pepper to taste

Drain liquid from jar. Roll in flour. Heat it until hot in a large frying pan. Fry oysters on medium-high heat for 5 minutes turning over once. Sprinkle with seasonings and serve.