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Roman Cooking – Meatballs, Kale with Poached Eggs

*note: this entry was never finished, but it has some fun recipes nonetheless, so here’s the partial thing*

So last weekend I had people over for a workshop on Roman Cooking. Here are the recipes we got through (translations from the Flower & Rosenbaum translation of Apicius:


Isicia Omentata
liber II (Sarcoptes), i (isicia), 7

pulpam concisam teres cum medulla siligine * in vino infusi. piper, liquamen, si velis, et bacam myrtae extenteratum simul conteres. pusilla isicia formabis, intus nucleis et pipere positis. involuta omento subassabis com caroeno.

Forcemeat Sausages
II (The Meat-Mincer), i (forcemeat), 7

Chop up meat and pound with white bread without crust which has been steeped in wine. At the same time pound pepper, liquamen, and, if you like, seeded myrtle-berry. Make little forcemeat balls, inserting pine kernels and pepper-corns. Wrap in sausage-skin and cook gently in caroenum.

Right – so that sounds nothing like meatballs at all, does it? Well originally this was just a step to create the isicia that a whole other recipe called for – only we got distracted by the yumminess and ate all the meatballs plain – so I figured there had to be a meatball recipe somewhere in the book, and this was the closest I found.

When researching this recipe on the internet (hee!), I even found one guy who uses this recipe to make hamburgers. So those sausage casings the recipe is named after? Let’s forget about those. And I didn’t stick peppercorns into the center because if they were in another dish, I thought it might be too much of a texture surprise than if they were standing alone.

Right, so, what did we do?

I put on some wine to reduce by 1/3 = caroenum. And I dunked 3 or 4 slices of bread (crust cut off) into the wine and then squoze them out. The squishy bread was mushed in with roughly 2 pounds of 80%lean ground beef. We pounded (with a mortar and pestle because why not go all out?) some pepper and some dried elderberries (because I didn’t have myrtle and it seemed no fun to just do pepper), and then we added some fish sauce to turn it into a paste. Added that to the meat/bread mixture. And then we made teensy tiny meatballs (1/2″ diameter) and tucked a pine nut into each one.

I preheated the oven to 350F, put the tray of meatballs in the oven, and then poured in just barely enough of the reduced wine to mostly cover the bottom of the tray. Roughly 15 minutes (untimed) later, we had some of the tastiest meatballs ever.


And then I alternated with a vegetable – Kale with poached eggs

Patinam ex rusticis, sive tamnis sive sinapi viridi sive cucumbere sive cauliculis
Liber IV (pandecter), ii (patinae piscium holerum pomorum), 7

item facies: si volueris, substernes pulpas piscium vel pullorum.

** #6 – Aliter patina de asparagis: adicies in mortario asparagorum praecisuras, quae proiciuntur, teres, suffundes vinum, colas. teres piper, ligusticum, coriandrum viride, satureiam, cepam vinum, liquamen et oleum. sucum transferes in patellam perunctam, et, si volueris, ova dissolves ad ignem, ut obliget. piper minutum asperges .

Patina of wild herbs, black byrony, mustard plant, cucumber, or cabbage
book IV (many ingredients), ii (patinae of fish, green vegetables, and fruit), 7

Prepare in the same way, and if you wish add fish fillets or chicken meat. (So this book and another agree that this recipe should come after the Patella with horse-parsley, but I saw no reason why the recipe directly above it wouldn’t work as well. So here’s the recipe above, too)

#6 – Asparagus patina, another method: Put in the mortar asparagus tips, pound, add wine, pass through the sieve. Pound pepper, lovage, fresh coriander, savory, onion, wine, liquamen, and oil. Put puree and spices into a greased shallow pan, and if you wish break eggs over it when it is on the fire, so that the mixture sets. Sprinkle finely ground pepper over it and serve.

So here’s what we did –

Since it seemed a drying shame to use dried onions, I diced the onion first and put it in the skillet with 2 teaspoons of olive oil.

When they were just starting to caramelize, I added 3-4 big leaves worth of kale, cut thinly in a chiffionade (cause I wasn’t turning it into a paste, that’s for sure).

After a few seconds, I splashed a decent quantity (1/4 cup?) of fish sauce into the pan and let it cook down.

When the kale was bright green and a little relaxed but still perky, I added the pounded spice paste (pepper, dried lovage, cilantro, and powdered savory, mixed into a paste with wine), gave it a quick stir to distribute everything, and cracked three eggs over the top. I turned the heat down a bit and covered the pan to let the eggs poach.

When the egg whites were solid and the yolks were pinking up, but still a little runny, I finagled it all onto a plate mostly together and still looking pretty. I topped with a grind of pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Om nom nom!

(Here is someone else’s reconstruction of the asparagus one)

back to meat – I set up for a beef roast

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