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 (serves 4)
- 1 prepared chicken (or chicken legs)
- freshly-ground black pepper
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.
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.
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.