Several weeks ago Caroline Lawrence very kindly sent me a copy of The Secrets of Vesuvius, book 2 of 17 in her 'Roman Mysteries' series. The Roman Mysteries are works of historical fiction aimed at kids, introducing them to the people and places of the ancient world - they're the kind of books I wish I had growing up! In my eyes, anything which makes history more accessible to children is great, so this week I'm going to take inspiration from Caroline and create a kid-friendly dish. These "dormice" are easy to make, very tasty, and most importantly, they're fun.
My inspiration comes from a passage in Caroline's first book, The Thieves of Ostia (used with the permission of the author of course):
'For our next course we're having dormice stuffed with chopped sows' udders,' she announced brightly.
Mordecai and his children froze in horror.
Nubia looked blank.
'Flavia...' said her father with a warning look.
'Just joking,' giggled Flavia. 'My favourite food is really roast chicken. You do like roast chicken, don't you?'
I love this scene - there's something truly Trimalchian about playing tricks with food! Of course, like Flavia, we're not really going to be serving up dormice - they're not exactly easy to come by in the shops!
Honey and Poppyseed Dormice
"The dishes for the first course included... some small iron frames shaped like bridges supporting dormice sprinkled with honey and poppy seed." - Petronius, Trimalchio's Feast
- Chicken Thighs & Drumsticks
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Poppy Seeds
- Rinse the chicken and cut off all the nasty bits. Leave the skin on if you want the 'mice' to be nice and crispy! Once rinsed, pat the chicken dry.
- Set the chicken onto an oiled/greased baking tray, making sure to rub some of the oil into the skin. Season with salt and pepper and place into the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 180 Celsius.
- Just before the chicken is due to come out of the oven, gently heat some honey in a pan, and sprinkle some poppy seeds out onto a plate.
- Whenever it looks ready, roll the cooked chicken around in the honey and then the poppy seeds. When all is done, pour the remaining honey and poppy seeds over the top of the chicken.
- To make our thighs and drumsticks look more 'mousey' we're going to add some tails - stick a cocktail stick into each bit of chicken, as shown below. Having the mouse on a stick also makes it much more easy to eat! The drumsticks are already rather mouse-shaped, so you can leave them be.
- Ingredient quantities depend entirely on how many mice you mean to make!
Our 'dormice' are sweet and crispy, with a slight crunch coming from the poppy seeds. In short, they're delicious, and I dare say Flavia would be pleased. Much more than that, they're seriously simple to make, allowing you to add a taste of ancient Rome to your dinner/party/classroom without the hassle of chopping herbs and grinding spices.