Fair warning – there might be a lot of posts all in a row. I’m planning a ancient Roman menu and am going to be putting my thoughts together here.
Starting off with 2 main sources – Apicius, which I’m familiar with, and Mark Grant’s Roman Cookery (which references ancient sources and then sometimes veers pretty far off, and I’ll need to go back and check his translations)
First thematic group
So this Roman Cookery book has a recipe for Ham in a red wine and fennel sauce (p.124-125) that’s described in the “Heidelberg Papyrus” which I haven’t tracked down yet. But it looks simple and tasty, and more importantly looks like it can be served on the side of either sliced ham as a preserved meat or ham as a cut of meat, cooked and sliced cold.
If the latter, there is an easy recipe for pork boiled in water with dried figs and bay leaves in Apicius (VII, ix, 1 & 2)
This would be lovely near Cabbage Salad that Grant (p.142-143) cites from Mnesitheus of Cyzicus, quoted in Oribasius’ Medical Compilations. Possibly also hard to track down. But it’s sliced cabbage in vinegar and spices. The closest recipe in Apicius (III, ix, 1) has you dressing the cabbage with salt, old wine (not vinegar), and oil. But most of his recipes have you cooking tha cabbage.
this group: gluten free, dairy free, fish free
second thematic group
Cucumbers in a quick refrigerator pickle (Apicius III, vi, 3) – I’ve made this before, and it’s pretty easy. Recipe does contain liquamen.
Olives & Celery – another Mark Grant recipe (p.74) from Columella – which should be significantly easier to double check. I want to take the serving of this as an olive and celery tapenade piped into celery logs
Hard Boiled Eggs – quartered and dressed with liquamen, pepper, and asafoetida (Apicius VII, xix, 2) and I figure there will be some plain eggs held back for less adventurous people and children
Patina of Anchovies – wash the anchovy, and steep in oil. Arrange in an earthenware saucepan, add oil, liquamen, and wine. Make a bouquet of rue and origan, and put it in. When cooked, remove the bouquet. Sprinkle with pepper and serve. (Apicius IV,ii, 11) – they were available for a good price and seem iconic for Roman food.
notes for this group: gluten free, dairy free, contains egg and fish
thematic group 3
Moretum is in Grant (p.72-73) citing pseudo-Virgil, but I’m also pretty sure the Apicius listserve has had copious discussions of this cheese, herb, and garlic spread with more than one ancient source.
Goat Cheese and Rice in Vine leaves – Grant (p.94-95) from a commentator on Aristophanes. Rice and cheese wrapped up in leaves, browned and fried in honey. For some reason the directions include unwrapping the rice as a stage, and that’s weird. So I need to look into that (and find an excuse to skip that step). This is a labor intensive reach recipe I might ditch. My plan is to make it a month or so ahead (possibly host a workshop to have several people help) and take it as far as browning the wrapped packets, and then freezing them. And then on the day of they can be reheated by frying them in honey.
Selection of white brined cheeses. Totally influenced by my trip to Istanbul, but I’d like to offer a couple different feta-like cheeses that have different flavor profiles.
Selection of crudite
- asparagus (blanched – Grant p.142 from Anthimus)
- broccoli rabe (if fresh and affordable)
- sliced mushrooms
Lucanian Sausage (Apicius II, iv, 1) if my sausage making friend can get it done in time to smoke and age. This is supposed to contain fish sauce, and I’m torn between leaving it out and offering versions with and without… or making people suck it up and only try if they’re willing to have some fish sauce. Whatevs. Also considering whether it would be a good idea to have this on the table with the other pork products, but I like it with this group of food items more… will think about dietary restrictions.
Almond-stuffed dates (Apicius VII, xiii, 1) – which I’ve made often and are always well received
notes: gluten free, (possibly fish free – see sausage)
thematic group 4
Sesame Crackers – yeah… there are 2 drastically different hypotheses in Grant (p.154-155) from a short line in Athanaeus, so the end product is totally unreliable, but I’ve had an Alton Brown recipe for sesame crackers that I’ve been meaning to try for months now.
Honey & Sesame Flatbread (Grant p.97 from Athanaeus) would be a performance piece made hot the day of. Only if I’m feeling up to the added stress. One of the reach goals
Mushroom-shaped Bread (Grant p.53-54 from Athanaeus) is again pretty damn hypothetical. The sources just specify the shape and the things that make it different from a standard white bread recipe. But we don’t know their standard recipe. I’m willing to do some experiments and make some educated guesses, but this is something supported by archaeology as well as text, and the redaction looks like it would be easy to make in foil tins, which would make it super easy for this sort of setting.
Fried Dough with honey & seeds (Grant p.57-58 from Cato) is the performance piece my sausage-making co-conspirator wants to make. And since several people have offered friers it wouldn’t be too logistically complicated.
And then maybe some not roman at all honey butter for the bread, and olive oil with herbs.
notes: 2 recipes are dairy free, all the gluten, fish free, vegetarian, some dairy
breakfast set up
Hydromel (Grant p.82-83 from Bassus) actually looks like it would make a good weak hot apple cider
1 part cider | 2 parts honey | 3 parts water
Seed stuffed buns (Grant p.106-107 from Plautus) Again, a very oblique mention. I’m thinking of these like miniature pop tarts stuffed with poppy seeds & almond or sesame seeds & pistachio – or something like that. And these would be something where we’d make it way ahead and freeze and then just pop them in the oven first thing when we go to set up. **expanded here**
4 months – 1 week ahead
Cabbage salad (refrigerate in jars)
stuffed dates with nuts (freeze)
Lucanian sausage (hang dry / refrigerate)
Stuffed leaves (freeze)
Cucumber pickles (refrigerate in jars)
Seed stuffed buns (freeze)
make signs and labels for everything with all ingredients
boil pork / find where to buy ham (vacuum pack and refrigerate)
hard boil eggs
make olive/celery tapenade
double check your signs/labels
1 day ahead
– celery, carrots, mushrooms
– blanch asparagus
– cook sauce for ham/pork
– bake mushroom-shaped bread (maybe reserve a couple to bake on site for delicious smell and hot bread-ness)
– mix dough for flatbreads
– thaw frozen things
– triple check your signs and labels
Day of event
- start coffee and hot water
- bake seed buns
- make hot
ciderhydromel – serve in crock pot
- is there a mini crock pot for the ham/pork sauce?
- fry dates in honey (can be done in a tray in the oven)
- peel hard boiled eggs
- fry stuffed leaves in honey (can probably be done in a tray in the oven)
- quarter eggs and dress with sauce
- slice ham/pork
- fill celery logs with tapenade
- arrange crudite and cheese plates, arrange all the other things, too, why don’t you?
- how are we feeling about the fried dough and flat breads?