Welcome to our kitchen. Today we prepare an ancient Roman recipe. A very interesting and flavorful dessert,
a sort of porridge with nuts and spelt. We start with the ingredients. We need spelt, dry white wine, raisin wine,
a bit of garum or just a pinch of salt, honey, and the nuts: pine nuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts. Walnuts and more frequently pine nuts are
used in ancient Roman cuisine, non just for their flavor but also as thickeners. Mixed with spelt, they will give a creamy
texture to the dish. And then we need black pepper and rue. If you don’t have rue, you can substitute it with another aromatic herb or just skip this ingredient. First, we boil the spelt. The cooking time depends on the variety you
use. We need to overcook it, so we are using a
good amount of water. Then we toast the hazelnuts. While we often find walnuts and pine nuts
in ancient Roman recipes, hazelnuts are uncommon, even if Pliny reports that hazelnut trees
were cultivated in Italy. In this recipe they are slightly crushed and
sprinkled on the finished dish. Walnuts and pine nuts instead are pounded
in the mortar. This recipe is part of the cookbook conventionally
attributed to Apicius. There are a few dessert recipes, called dulcia domestica, that can be translated as homemade sweets, in contrast with the more common sweets
made by bakers. We slightly crush the hazelnuts in the mortar
and keep them aside. Now, we grind in the mortar black pepper,
pine nuts, and walnuts. The original recipe doesn’t use pepper but
a type of garum spiced with pepper, called piperatum. We substituted it with garum and black pepper
following the suggestion Apicius provides in another passage of his book. The author, as usual in ancient cookbooks,
doesn’t write precise instructions about the method. For example, he doesn’t tell us to pound
walnuts and pine nuts, but he specifies to add hazelnuts just crushed. And based on how he uses pine nuts and walnuts
in other recipes, there is no doubt about how to proceed with the preparation. Then we mince the rue. Rue, with its aromatic and slightly bitter
flavor, adds an interesting complexity to the dish. We suggest using just a few leaves not to
overpower the other flavors. We add the minced rue in the mortar and pound
it to release all its aroma. Rue is one of the most used herbs in ancient
Roman cuisine. It’s quite common as a wild plant in many
Italian regions, but it is difficult to buy in grocery stores. We cultivate a few plants in our aromatic
garden. When the spelt is cooked, we let it cool and
pound it in the mortar. The author calls this cereal alica, it’s
not always easy to identify ancient cereal varieties. Latin has several words for cereals like spelt,
emmer, and einkorn. We can’t know for sure if alica is one of
those cereals, or it’s equivalent to the Italian word farro, a word that identifies different
cereal varieties similar in taste and appearance. It’s interesting to notice that the word
alica is used not just for the cereal grains. Other Latin authors use this word for a preparation of crushed grains or a type of beer, both made with this cereal. We don’t need to completely mash it, but we must pound it enough so that it will absorb all the liquid ingredients, creating a creamy, flavorful dessert. We add to the spelt the ground nuts, pepper,
and rue, and then all the liquid ingredients: honey, garum, raisin wine, and white wine. We suggest adding the ingredients a little at a time to adjust the sweetness and the consistency of the dish. If you don’t have garum you can substitute
it with just a pinch of salt. Apicius here is aiming at a balance between sapidity and sweetness, according to ancient Roman cuisine habits. Garum was a fish sauce widely used by ancient
Mediterranean populations. There are a few historical sources that describe
its production. It was made with fish and salt, sometimes
adding aromatic herbs ad spices. Today there are a few producers of garum, if you don’t find it, you can substitute it with a South East Asian fish sauce. They are produced in the same way as some
types of garum. We let the mix rest for a few minutes to allow
it to absorb all the residual liquids, so that it will have a firmer consistency. We plate, sprinkling the toasted hazelnuts. This creamy and flavorful dessert is a delicious
way to end an ancient Roman banquet. If you’re interested in ancient foods and flavors, or you’re just looking for unusual and delicious recipes, please subscribe our channel.