I have to admit I like this book, Meals and Recipes from Ancient Greece.

Product Details

The reason I like it, other then a very good write up on meals, menu’s and historic features is that the recipes are based on other gourmets rather then just another Apicius reproduction.  Of course the measurements are sparse but the recipes are from many sources.  The fish section alone is amazing!  More fish recipes then I have seen in any other Roman/Greek cookbook yet.  Very very interesting to read. Can not wait to try 2 or 3 of these.

The bread section is a fascinating read.  The author does give his own version of each recipe; however every one should feel free to add or subtract as they feel they are comfortable with. I have at least a couple of the bread recipes marked for my experimental to do list.

I could wish for about another 80 pages or so in both information and recipes but for the pricing it’s pretty good.  A great addition to any Roman cooking library.  Overall I give this book an A-. 

Apicius has been translated numerous times.  It is THE roman cookbook.  The translations though have varied from very good to blech!  I have to say that the newest edition for Apicius is very good.

What I like about the book is that the original Latin is on the left page while the English translation is to the right. I also think that the research done for Roman cooking is in depth and very well written.  There are no redactions to the translated recipes, which I really like.  This gives the reader a chance to form their own opinion.  I do wonder though as S. Grainger is one of the authors if this is not the book from which she uses as her primary source to her cookbook on Roman cuisine “Cooking Apicius”.  If this is the case then both books would be a very good compliment to each other.

Cooking wise, this is NOT for beginners.  Apicius expected a person to know their way around a kitchen and not need hand holding.  Overall I think this is one of the top 3 Roman books to have.  I give this an A+ for original recipes, information and a great format for reading/researching. 

So I picked up a few new books for my birthday.  One of them, “Enchanting Recipes from the Tales of the 1001 Arabian Nights” was one of those “Hmmm, Let’s see.” type of books.  I am actually very please.  There are not 1001 sweets in the Arabian Nights but the 25 recipes they do have are very nice.

It seems that every culture that has access to flour, sugar and butter makes some sort of sugar cookie.  Sweet subtle and very tasty!

Baqsamat bi Sukkar

(Middle Eastern Twice Cooked Sugar Cookie)

 

Translation:

Take flour and sugar, moisten, and knead with butter.  If it is not sweet enough add finely pounded sugar to it.  Make for it a liquid mixture of yeast with a little water.  Make baqsamat in any variety that you wish.  Bake on a tray in the oven a second time after having baked it once. (Ibn al-Adim, Kitab al-Waslah ila al-Habib fi Wasf al-Tayyibat wa al-Tib/Salloum, pp. 58)

Ingredients:

2 C flour

1 C sugar

2 sticks butter

¼ C water

2 Tbs yeast

Optional:

¼-1/2  tsp (total) spices i.e. cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves

 

Redaction:

This recipe is based on both the Arabian Nights and a period recipe.  Salloum suggest treating this as a typical sugar cookie, with the twist of adding yeast and water per the recipe.

Take about a teaspoon of sugar and add to the yeast.  This will get the yeast going while you mix the other ingredients together.

Basic recipe is to take flour and sugar, mix well.

Next cut butter into small chunks/cubes.

Then add in cubed butter,

till the butter is mixed with the flour and sugar in to pea sized granules.

Next add in yeast/water.

This will form a dough.

Cut into forms,

and cook once and allow to cool.  Then cook a second time till a little harder.

My thought is with the original recipe saying “Make baqsamat in any variety that you wish” they are saying one of two things (possibly both).  Make the shape of the cookie into any form you wish and/or add spicing of your choice.  Even with cooking twice, there is a sufficient amount of moisture that the cookies are very moist.  Almost to moist to hold any actual shape that isn’t round.

For this recipe I went with the shape first.  Next time I am going to add a few spices for a subtly sweet dry cookie.

 

For my birthday, I received a few books.  One of which was a cooking/court life book.  I was a little hesitant as cookbooks and court books are usually separated into different books.  I am pleasantly surprised, my first run through on recipes yielded at least 8 recipes I want to try this weekend!

The Nimatnuma Manuscript of the Sultans of Mandu

The Sultans Book of Delights

I enjoy this book quite a bit.  There are recipes for different meat dishes, soups, and birds.  There are also recipes for perfumes and what we would call body splashes (which have been rare as hens teeth to find information on).  There are recipes on drinks and sweets.

As for the hunting portions, I really enjoy these sections as well.  The details are not so much as stories but a list of what to bring and why.  Not only favorite dishes/drinks and perfumes are included for the Sultan but on ways to reward his generals with tokens of gold/silver as well as food and drink.  There is also an account on how to to cook at a camp site with skewers, meat and bread.

The book also contains quiet a few pictures of hunting scenes and camping scenes as well as pages and pages of manuscripts.  There is also a section on measurements and a section with period words and their English definition.  A real bonus!

The down side is that all the hunting and cooking scenes are in not in color.  The cooking section (and hunting portions) are roughly 1/4 of the entire text.  My feelings are that while the manuscripts in the original writings are pretty…the book could probably have benefited from a good pruning of pages.

This is not a beginners book.  The recipes have some measurements for spices.  Each “section” or paragraph can have 2-4 recipes so a weathered eye on which ingredients need to go with which recipes in these sections.  Overall I give the book an A for period recipes, definitions, pictures and calligraphy.  For cooking an B, for multiple recipes and some measurements.

 

Here is another warming drink.  This one takes time though…lots and lots of time!  This not a one hour simmer with spices and serve as the Hipocris was.  This is a brew in the warming days of spring and serve next to an autumn fire.  So we need to get some brewing started!

Honey Wine with Raisins

 Translation:

Take fifty pounds of raisins and thirty (pounds) of clarified bees’ honey.  Put the honey in a pot with a quantity of water equal to half the honey.  Boil the honey and water over a strong fire, and when it is cooked add the raisons with twenty pounds of water and boil again.  Strain out the grape seeds and add a weight of five dirham of saffron, five dirham of spikenard, and three dirham of mace, along with the weight of 1 daniq of musk.  Keep in bottles in the shade and use after forty days.  It is a marvel.  (Zaouali, pp. 140)

Ingredients:

1 jar

1 package yeast

¾ C sugar

10 lbs of honey

10 lbs of water (divided in half)

3 grams each of Chinese cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron

4 lbs raisons

 

Redaction:  One week prior to starting, I mixed the sugar and yeast together in a jar (with about 3 C water) so that when the time came to add yeast there would be lots and lots!

Now the period method did not call for yeast.  Yeast in period was either salvaged from a previous batch of brewing or allowed to form naturally in or on any items by leaving them out a bit to gather the wild yeast.  My kitchen is geared, due to all the various cooking I do, to bread yeast.  Modern bread yeast at that.  Modern bread yeast does horrible nasty evil things to brewing.  So, to help circumvent any modern bread yeast from taking root into my mead, I make a HUGE batch of wine yeast (lost of sugar and time to get the little yeasty beasties growing) then add them to my bottle of brewing.

Roughly 5 to 7 days later I started to brew mead.

I took 10 lbs of honey and poured the liquid gold into a large pot.

Now the honey I bought was not regional to anywhere in the Middle East nor in Ansteorra.  I bought, for cost sake, Costco slut honey.  A decent clarified honey at a good price.  Regional honey is much better in my opinion but 2x the price for half the amount is not.  I chose to be cost efficient and go for decent mead instead of slightly darker sweeter mead.  If you can get regional flavored honey…do so, but don’t break the bank for brewing!

The next step was to add 5 lbs of water.  I used one of the containers of honey and refilled it up with water to equal ½ of the water needed in the first portion.

I allowed the honey and water mixture to boil just slightly.

Bubbles were just forming.  Then I added the 4 lbs of raisins.

Now the period method said 50 lbs of raisins (roughly) for the original recipe.  This recipe has been cut by half.  Raisins to be used in that quantity had to be as easy to come by as air.  Do not get me wrong the flavor is great; however I don’t think so much was or is needed.  I cute the quantity from what should be 25 lbs of raisins to 4 lbs.  My cooking pot would not have handled so much, though I wonder after reading the translation several times if the raisins were not cooked until dissolved in which case the 4 lbs of raisins I used should have been ground up then added.  But this is hindsight.   Next time I’ll try that step of making raisin paste instead of just using whole raisins.

After the raisins were added, I added the spices.

Now again I had to fudge a little on the spicing.  I did not have any mace so I went with nutmeg.  Mace is the outer covering on a nutmeg with a slightly subtler less heavy taste.  So instead of 4.25 grams times 3 = 12.75 grams or (3 dirhams) of mace I used 3 grams of nutmeg instead of 12.75 grams or 3 dirhams.  I want a flavoring of nutmeg not an overwhelming taste.  I used the poor man’s saffron in 3 grams as well and 3 grams of Chinese cinnamon.  For a truly heavenly period taste, get the Chinese cinnamon if at all possible.  The regular every day grocery store cinnamon has no flavor compared to the really good Chinese cinnamon!

Here are the spices, still dry and in 1 cup ramekins.

I allowed everything to come to a bit of a simmer with lots of bubbles and a slight roil before turning off the heat.

Everything sat and melded for a few hours till cooler.

I then put a strainer over a cleaned bucket to pull out the raisins (and not just grape seeds) which is why I think the original way this was made was to cook the raisins till they dissolved.

Pour the boiled raisin/honey mixture over the strainer and into the bucket to strain out all the raisins. (Do NOT throw the raisins away!  They are excellent in other dishes with a slightly honey/spiced flavor)

Once the raisins had been strained,

I poured the mead into a clean glass carboy and added the remaining 10 lbs of water.  I added the water at this juncture instead of in the pot as my pot was not big enough to handle another 10 lbs of water.  This cooled the still fairly hot mead enough that the yeast could be added.

The finishing touch was a vapor lock as I know the yeast will do its thing and I prefer a non sticky floor due to a blown glass jar, which was a real possibility in period.

Now, this carboy has not been uncorked as of yet.  It needs another couple of months before I can start decanting the wine.  I’m already picking out the perfect meal to go with this!

Spring has sprung!  Yet the nights can be a little bit on the cool side requiring a little warming.  I had this recipe on hand from the cold nights at Gulf Wars this year.  The wine, excellent blankets and a faux fur ankle length coat kept me warm during 2013 freezing nights!

Hippocras

 Translation:

To make hippocras, take a pottle of wine, two ounces of good cinnamon, half an ounce of ginger, nine cloves, and six pepper corns, and a nutmeg, and bruise them and put them into the wine with some rosemary flowers, and so let them steep all, night and then put in sugar a pound at least; and when it is well settled, let it run through a woollen bag made for that purpose: thus if you wine be claret, the hippocras will be red; if white, then of that colour also.

(Markham, 150)

Ingredients:

Chinese Ciniman stick

½ oz ginger peeled,

9 cloves

6 pepper corns

Nutmeg whole (1/8 tsp ground if not)

1 cup brown sugar

Optional:

Rosemary flowers if in season.  Not rosemary stems just the rosemary flowers.

 

Redaction:

I had to take a few liberties with this excellent recipe.  I used a descent wine but not a great wine.  Some thing that I could and would drink plainly but one that would not be ruined by adding of spices.

I put roughly 1 Tbl spoon of a hippocras blend that contains Saigon cinnamon, allspice, Ceylon and Madagascar cloves, blade mace and inner cardamom seeds.  My opinion is that each house or even each bar had a different recipe containing some the brewers favorite spices.  My spice blend did not have the ginger nor the pepper corns, though it did have mace instead of nutmeg as well as cardamom seeds and all spice.  I can live with this substitution!  I do plan on using the ginger and peppercorns as I love both flavors; a spiciness that combines very well with sweet.

Instead of letting the wine settle over night (as the event was an hour away when I made this) I settled for warming the wine to just at simmering (the bubbles just are forming) when I turned off the pot and added a Tbs of spicing and 1 cup of brown sugar.

I  used a combination of the hard Mexican sugar and regular brown sugar.  Roughly about ½ of each.  I have since made this recipe with just the hard Mexican brown sugar found in specialty sections or stores, with excellent results.   If you are unsure, do ½ and ½ or just regular brown sugar.

I let the wine sit for roughly 30-45 minutes, then cleared out the spices.  Once the spices were skimmed from the wine, I poured everything into a clean bottle and served.

This is really good to drink.  Almost to good, you can get very toasted on the hippocras and never realized you drank 2 bottles worth on a cold night!

 

We’ve had a bit of a stomach bug going around at the house and I had a yen for some chicken soup.  I decided it was time to do a little research and see what I could find that would cover the basics for a mellow soup on the most tender of stomachs.  This soup is nice and meaty with good flavor but not to heavy.

Jazariyya

(Chicken (or beef) Soup with Walnuts, Parsley and Spinach)

 

Translation:

Boil meat with a little water.  Put carrots, garlic cloves and peeled onions in it, then put crushed garlic in it.  Some people put spinach with it also; some make it with out spinach.  Walnuts and parsley are put in.  (Rodinson, pp. 471)

Ingredients:

1 chicken or equivalent chicken parts i.e. chicken thighs (if using skinless/boneless thighs or breast cook in low sodium chicken stock or preferably home made chicken stock)

OR

2 ½ lbs beef, lamb or goat

 

3 carrots   8 garlic cloves   1 onion   3-4 C baby spinach roughly chopped

1 handful parsley   1 handful roughly chopped walnuts

 

Redaction:

When I did this recipe I changed things up slightly.  I made this as a chicken soup even though this soup can encompass any type of meat.  Don’t think of this as one type of soup only.

This just looks so fresh from the garden!  The carrot and parsley were plucked minutes before tossing everything together.

I cut up the chicken thighs, still slightly frozen for ease in slicing into bite sized pieces and threw them into the water.

In period, a whole chicken would have been used not just pieces like we can get modernly.  If using skinless/boneless chicken parts use a low sodium broth or a home made broth.  This will really kick up the flavor.  You can use a broth for other meat if you like however beef lamb and goat are all marbled with fat while modern chicken pieces have been stripped of skin and bones that add to the richness of a broth.

Add in the carrots,

I know this looks sort of like a turnip or parsnip but it’s a carrot from my garden.  Not the common orange but a white variety.  Most of the time, I use the baby carrots.  Some times I chop them in half but usually I leave them whole as this is a time savor.  Period wise for ME cooking that the carrots (either yellow or purple) be cored to remove the woody pith and the outer portions chopped for the dish being prepared.  They didn’t have the selection of carrot varieties we do today.

4 peeled garlic cloves

and the chopped onion.

Here everything is put into a pot bit by bit!

I did add spinach.  I’ve been adding handfuls of this wonderful veggie to give an extra vitamin and fiber boost (and not just to my period recipes).

The spinach was roughly chopped and cooks down.

I did not want to just throw spinach leaves in as they some times are a bit unwieldy if not cut into smaller pieces.

Once these have been added take the remaining garlic cloves and chop them up pretty fine.

When the recipe calls for crushed garlic I believe this is meant crushed in a mortar and pestle.  Chopping the garlic fine is close but not exact, we just want as much flavor as we can get so the more surface area exposed to the forming chicken broth the better!

I simmered everything for about an hour and added roughly 1 ½ tsp of salt (to my taste).

Once the soup was served I added parsley and walnuts.

I was unsure whether to add the parsley and walnuts during or after so I erred on the side of caution and used as a garnish.  I did add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt to the dish for extra flavoring.  This is a very mild soup but very filling.  The rye bread was an extra bonus for the day.  Pairs very nicely together!

 

This is a very warm and tasty soup with lots of health foods too!

 

Now that Gulf Wars is over and all the laundry has been done, I have a moment for more postings!  This next recipe was done for Kingdom A&S (one of three) for a Peacock recipe using duck for an alternative meat.  This recipe is my favorite.  I’ve made the patties with beef but duck beat out the beef hands down.  So if you have the time, use duck!

Roman Duck Sliders (Faux Peacock)

“Grind chopped meat with the center of fine white bread that has been soaked in wine.  Grind together pepper, garum and pitted myrtle berries if desired.  Form small patties, putting in pine nuts and pepper.  Wrap in omentum and cook slowly in caroenum.”  (Giacosa, pp. 90)

The ground meat patties of peacock have first place, if they are fried so that they remain tender… (Apicius, 54/Giacosa, pp. 90).

On a side note, the peacock was so expensive (roughly 50 denarii a bird) that some peacocks were stripped of their skin then cooked (roasted) in aromatic resinous substances until the meat was effectively mummified. Afterwards it was redressed and reserved at another banquet later that week or month without fear of rotting. (Toussaint-Samat, pp. 38)

This recipe, for ground patties, was probably used for peahens past their reproductive cycle, and at 50 denarii per bird, this would still be a very expensive and luxuriant dish to serve to nobility and emperors.

Ingredients:

1 peacock        1 cup ground bread crumbs        1 tsp ground pepper        ½ red wine (pinot)

1 tsb fish sauce        ½ cup pine nuts          ½ lb bacon strips

Redaction:

First cut as much meat off the thawed duck as possible with a bit of skin.

This is the start of the meat cutting.  Even though a young duck doesn’t look like it has a lot of meat there should be enough after everything blended you should have roughly 8 patties, so don’t worry unless you are making dinner for 20.  Then you have your work cut out for you!

Place all the meat with some of the skin into a Cuisinart and hit grind.

I know…not very appetizing but the dish does get better!

Gather all your spices into one spot.

First add a little of the wine to the bread crumbs with out making a soup.  2-3 TBS should do it.  Next mix in the pepper.

Then mix the spices into the ground duck meat.

Here we have a Roman meatloaf, but we aren’t done yet!

Form patties from the duck mixture, roughly the size of your palm.  If you have really large hands, you will want to trim the patties down a little.  If your hands are a bit small you will want to add to the patties so they are a bit larger.

Here I managed to get 8 patties roughly 3 inches in diameter.

Take the patties and wrap them in a slice of bacon.

Step one…place pattie on top of the bacon.

Next cover with the bacon.  You shouldn’t need a tooth pick.  The bacon grips pretty well to it’s self.

Finally for the cooking portion, place the bacon wrapped pattie in a pan with red wine.

Here you can’t see the wine, as the patties are on top.  The wine should come almost all the way to the top of the patties not just cup the bottom of the patties as seen here.  So when in doubt…add more wine!  This is a Roman dish after all.

Then put the pan in the oven at 350 for roughly 25-30 minutes.

As seen the bacon held to the pattie and the pattie is thoroughly cooked.

Here is a single pattie.

Oh my!  This is soo tasty.  The duck is a wonderful rich meat with the wine and pine nuts.  The bacon a great salty meaty counter point to the sweet wine the meats are cooked in.  This is a definite must for the Roman cook to try at least once!

 

Normally I would try to actually use the main ingredient listed.  This time, not so much.  Peacock is, unless you raise the birds your self, EXPENSIVE!!  So a good substitute needs to be found.  You could use pheasant…but they to are a bit expensive.  I went with skinned duck.  A good dark meat fowl that is in the affordable range and once the skin is stripped fairly lean.

Peacock done in the Italian Style

Original:

“If you want to roast the small ones on a spit, as soon as they are caught pluck them dry and draw them; leave their head and feet on.  Stuff them with a little beaten pork fat, fresh fennel, beaten common herbs, raw egg yolks and common spices – which is done to keep them from drying out.  Sew up the hole and arrange their wings and thighs so they are snug.  Sear them on coals.  Wrap them, sprinkled with salt and cloves, in a calf or wether caul, or else in slices of pork fat with paper around them…When they are done serve them hot. (Scappi, pp. 206)

Ingredients:

Peacock (or edible bird substitute)

4 egg yolks

1 fennel

1 ½ lbs of bacon (6-8 Bacon strips and ½ lb bacon pieces)

1/2 tbs salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tbs flour

Redaction:

Italian Peacock #1

For the fennel stuffed duck the majority of prep work is getting the stuffing made.  First I gathered all the spices together.

The bacon and fennel were cut into small pieces, with the egg yolk and spices added next.

 

Everything was mixed together as evenly as possible coating the fennel and bacon with the finer spices and egg yolk.

The young duck, with out neck or head attachment,

 

was skinned ready for stuffing.  Yes this gets very messy!

The mixture was then stuffed into the duck.

 

The duck after being stuffed was wrapped in bacon slices.  I had to affix the bacon with skewers.  Toothpicks would have worked; however I was out of those.

This duck is not being suggestive, merely showing all the yummy stuff just waiting to happen.

The duck was then placed on a rack in the oven for an hour and a half.

This is a very tasty way to eat duck.  The bacon and fennel contemplate each other with the egg yolks.  The skewers were determined to stay in, more then I was willing to yank the cooked duck apart.

I have done this recipe using ducks with their heads.

The duck can be “formed” to have an upright look using skewers down the throat and pinning the neck to the chest.

This method is messy and irritating.  I preferred cooking with out the neck and head attached.  However I know realize why and how the metal skewers were used for maximum effect when cooking peacocks.  Bamboo or even wooden skewers do not curve or bend in natural ways to get the best effect

However cooked duck with a head attached just looks very unhappy and not nearly as appealing as the non-headed duck dish.  In period, as previously described, the eyes would have been replaced with some thing nicer like rubies.

 

 

So the two major A&S display events will be done by this weekend, so it’s time to post some of the recipes worked on.  The next 3 recipes will be devoted to “Peacock” and how to cook them.  Well “Faux” peacock as I really couldn’t afford to cook a real peacock.  I’ll post that paper which explains why.

Original Translation:

Peacock/Swan “Kill it like goose, leave the head and tail, lard or bard it, roast it golden, and it with fine salt.  It lasts at least a month after it is cooked.  If it becomes mouldy on top, remove the mould and you will find it white, good and solid underneath.” (Taillevent, pp. 23)

Ingredients:

1 Duck

1 lb bacon slices

salt

Redaction:

This was the simplest of the three dishes.  The duck was stripped of its skin and salted, then wrapped in bacon.

 

Once the bird had been redressed in a pork covering, it was roasted for an hour or more, until done.

And that’s it.

This style of faux “peacock” does not match the taste of the other two dishes.  A skin covering would definitely needed to dress this bird up.  The taste is excellent and easier to cook though I would say the taste is not quite up to par with the other two dishes.

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