Ancient Roman cuisine, Roman Cooking

A taste of Ancient Rome – Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) and Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin)

It has been over a year since I last blogged about ancient Roman cooking, even though I have tried a few more recipes in the meantime, as people who follow me on Twitter or Facebook have probably noticed.

One of my last cooking sessions was on the occasion of Hadrian’s birthday on 24th January. Pullum (chicken) dishes from ancient Rome have proven to be a favourite of mine, and I invite you to try this recipe taken from Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria Book VI Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken). Pullum Numidicum is a chicken dish flavoured with pepper and asafoetida that is roasted and served with a spiced date, nut, honey, vinegar and stock sauce. I chose to accompany my Pullum Numidicum with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin).

Pullum Numidicum recipe in Latin:

Apicius 6.8.5: Pullum Numidicum: pullum curas, elixas, levas, laser ac piper et assas. teres piper, cuminum, coriandri semen, laseris radicem, rutam, caryotam, nucleos, suffundis acetum, mel, liquamen et oleum, temperabis. cum ferbuerit, amulo obligas, pullum perfundis, piper aspergis et inferes.

Translation: Prepare the chicken as usual; parboil it; clean it seasoned with laser and pepper, and fry in the pan; next, crush pepper, cumin, coriander seed, laser root, rue, fig dates and nuts, moistened with vinegar, honey, broth and oil to taste. When boiling, thicken with roux, strain, pour over the chicken, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Ingredients: Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA
Ingredients: Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken)

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 prepared chicken (or chicken legs)
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • asafoetida

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • pinch of asafoetida, pinch of rue (or rosemary)
  • 4 tbsp dates, finely chopped 4 tbsp
  • ground almonds or hazelnuts
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp wheat flour, to thicken -if needed- (wheat starch would originally have been used)
  • freshly-ground black pepper to garnish


Add the chicken to a pan of boiling water and cook for 30 minutes to parboil. Then remove the chicken and pat dry. Place in a roasting tin and sprinkle with black pepper and a little asafoetida. Place in an oven preheated to 180°C and roast for about 40 minutes or until cooked through.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Pound together the black pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, asafoetida and rue in a mortar. Add the dates and ground nuts, then pound until smooth. Work in the vinegar and honey, then add the chicken stock and olive oil. Turn into a pan and bring to a boil. If needed, whisk in the flour until smooth and cook until thickened.

When the chicken is cooked, arrange it on a platter, pour over the sauce and serve.

Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) accompanied with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA
Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) accompanied with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin)

The Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin) recipe comes from Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria Book V.

Conchicla Cum faba recipe in Latin:

Apicius 5.4.1: Conchicla Cum faba: coques. teres piper, ligusticum cuminum coriandrum viridem, suffundis liquamen, vinum et liquamen in ea temperabis, mittis in caccabum, adicies oleum. lento igni ferveat et inferes.

Translation: Cook the beans; meanwhile crush pepper, lovage, cumin, green coriander, moistened with broth and wine, and add more broth to taste, put into the saucepan with the beans adding oil; heat on a slow fire and serve.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 450g fresh, unshelled beans
  • pinch of lovage seeds (or celery seeds)
  • pinch of cumin seeds
  • pinch of fresh coriander
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 70ml white wine
  • pinch of black peppercorns


Trim the beans and steam them for ten minutes. Drain the pan and add the beans to it. Add the celery, cumin and coriander seeds to a mortar and grind them together. Blend with the stock and white wine. Pour this sauce over the beans and add the olive oil. Simmer gently until the beans are heated through, and the sauce has reduced.

Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) accompanied with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin) and served with Hapalos Artos (soft bread)
Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) accompanied with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin) and served with Hapalos Artos (soft bread)

I later realised that the vegetable I used was green beans, which are from the New World. The “faba” of ancient Roman cookery would have been fava beans. Therefore I should have used unshelled broad beans (beans still in the pod).


The results were amazing, and both dishes tasted exceptionally good! I loved all the flavours of the chicken sauce and particularly the sweetness from the figs and the spice from the cumin and pepper. The vinegar definitely helped cut the overpowering sweetness of the sauce, so don’t forget to add the vinegar. I have to say that this is one of my favourite ancient dishes to date, with the Pullum Particum (Parthian Chicken).

This savoury and sweet dish should be served with some ancient Roman red wine. I highly recommend this extraordinary spiced wine – conditum paradoxum that you can buy online via the Der-Römer-Shop here.

Conditum paradoxum - Ancient red wine from Apicius
Conditum paradoxum – Ancient red wine from Apicius

Bonum appetitionem!

Fresco showing a piece of bread and two figs, from Pompeii, Naples National Archaeological Museum Carole Raddato CC BY-SA
Fresco showing a piece of bread and two figs, from Pompeii, Naples National Archaeological Museum
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Related posts:

A taste of Ancient Rome – Pullum Particum (Parthian Chicken) and Parthian Chickpeas

A taste of Ancient Rome – Aliter Patina de Asparagis (Omelette with Asparagus and Fresh Herbs)

A taste of Ancient Rome – Minutal ex Praecoquis (Pork and Fruit Ragout)

13 thoughts on “A taste of Ancient Rome – Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) and Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin)”

  1. Hi Carole, Yes the Roman recipes are indeed delicious. Did I mention I had a small business making Apicius Roman Sauces and sold them to Museums when in England. They were sold as a gift item. Great post. Thanks for bringing back memories .

    1. I would have loved to taste your Roman sauces! I am really hoping that one day I will be able to cook Roman dishes for re-enactment events. I’d definitely love to do that!

  2. Yes ! our Apicius Sauces sold really well when we attended the Re-enactments. They were great fun and we miss seeing all our friends, however we are still in touch with many of them.

  3. Ave, Carole. Love your Following Hadrian “project” and posts–thanks for sharing! At this very moment, Conchicla Cum faba is just about ready. I used fresh fava beans and fennel seed (since I didn’t have any celery seed), but I did use colatura di alici for the liquamen. Consider trying it (or fish sauce) instead of the broth. Tastes pretty good.

    1. This is great, thank you so much for letting me know. I need to try the Conchicla Cum faba recipe again and use fresh fava beans.

  4. Reblogged this on Larry Muffin At Home and commented:
    Wonderful recipe from Antiquity and easy to follow. When reading it you quickly realize how food was far simpler then. After 1492 when Mr. Columbus returns from the Americas food and food preparation will take a complicated turn.

  5. But I thought that there is no cornflour or corn in ancient rome since corns were firstly imported from america during post Christopher Columbus’ discovery of america????? Similar to tomatoes and potatoes??? Even if the they used the term starch in latin but I don’t think that it is cornflour that we normally refer it as today. Starch in this case, could actually be wheat flour for the sauce??? Please correct me if I’m wrong. Were there already corns in Europe before the discovery of America??????

    PS: For instance, I just found out that the term fricta or frictum in latin which is means fry had different definition to what we think of frying means today since the ancient romans had different perception of what frying method is like cooking eggs on hot boiling sauce (ovo frictum) which are ancient roman fried eggs rather than frying the eggs in hot oil that we normally do today so sometimes understanding by translating from latin to english does not always work especially if their meanings or their perception of these terms are different from today’s. Also, the ancient method of cooking is also more time consuming and complicate than today’s cooking method like if you need to make sauce then you need to make stock or broth by boiling the meat and bones maybe for hours or 30 mins minimum rather than using ready stock or broth cube of supermarket that we tend to use today. Anyway this is just to share.

    1. Bear in mind that the Roman recipes have been adapted to our modern kitchens. You are right, corn did not come to Europe before the discovery of America but the fact that the Romans used wheat starch is mentioned. However I agree that the use of cornflour here is confusing so I decided to remove it. Thanks for posting your comment.

      1. I also would like to add that another interesting fact that I did not know until i open Apicius De Re Coquinaria book is that ancient Roman Cuisine is very different from today’s Italian cuisine or modern day european cuisine. Not all ancient ingredients were being adopted by Italians like the fish sauce or garum in latin. I was shocked because I did not know that my ancestors ate like asians and used ingredients that asians normally would use rather than europeans. It proved that ancient romans have a more asian’s taste or preference like flavourful taste that involves sweet (honey), salty (garum or liquamen), sour (vinegar or wine) and also dried spices that would be mortared by roman housewifes. Most italians would try to avoid sugar or honey in their first dish and second dish or main course unless if it’s sweet desserts. Today, dried spices are commonly use in middle east and india while fish sauce is currently use in Southeast Asia like Thailand. Romans also had Laser which is now an extinct ingredient from North Africa or Carthage Empire belonged to extinct Silphium plant but romans were shocked to find similar plant in Persia or Afghanistan by silk road trading that provides asafoetida which later became a good substitution for laser so yeah, laser is not really asafoetida either but they both taste similar. If most italians open this book then they would find the fish sauce to be disgusting ingredient to use because they had forgotten about fish sauce since the 15th or 16th century when they stop producing garum because it was too expensive. Ancient Garum factory is at Pompeii located near the beach because its stinky. Funnily, if you let Asians read this book then they would find it to be normal than the Italians and that is the irony because since Italians were Romans. I just wanted to share my extra findings because this fact had shocked me and other Italians too. Ancient Romans ate more like Asian people rather than Europeans even though, many modern european dishes are based on the ancient roman dishes. Sorry for the long reply. Anyway thanks for reading.

  6. This recipe looks more north african rather then roman. In the maghreb region and still to these days, a lot of dishes have that mix of sweet and savoury.

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