Friday, 21 June 2013
In just a few days time I'll be hopping on the next trireme to SE Asia to start a summer full of adventures. I've thought and pondered about how I might keep Pass the Garum up-to-date, but in the end have decided that the website will take a break for the next 7 or 8 weeks. That means there will be no new recipes until mid-August at the earliest. Not to worry though, you have a whole 30 Roman recipes to keep you going until then!
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Monday, 10 June 2013
Roman food, as the picture suggests, was a bit hands on - our favourite soldiers and senators didn't use cutlery very much, preferring instead to tuck in with their fingers and toes (ok, not toes) instead. That makes eating Lentil and Root Veg Mash a bit tricky, which is why we shall serve it with some lagana - a type of Roman flatbread.
Flatbread is great stuff - all you need is flour, water, and a hot surface. With no need for yeast or fancy ovens, this is the kind of bread which anybody, rich or poor, could eat. I'm making mine with Spelt flour, a type of flour used in Roman Britain. I know Spelt can be quite tricky to find though, so feel free to use whatever flour you can find.
- 100g Spelt Flour (+ extra for dusting)
- Prepare a work surface by sprinkling over some flour.
- Sieve 100g of flour into a bowl, and add just enough water to form a dough. Knead this by hand, adding more flour as necessary, until it is neither too wet nor dry.
- Divide the ball of dough into four equal pieces. Roll these one at a time until they are flat, disc-shaped, and uniformly thin.
- Add a drop of oil to a frying pan, and when it is hot enough, set a laganum in. As it cooks, it will start to puff-up in places as pockets of air are formed. When dark spots start to form on the underside, flip it over. Each side should take about a minute to cook. If needs be, press down on the top side to speed things up.
Despite being just flour and water, these lagana are great eaten straight out of the pan; the nutty flavour of spelt works wonderfully in this instance (in fact, it left my kitchen smelling vaguely of popcorn!) When eating with the mash, just rip a bit of bread off and use it to pick up some of the lentil & root veg goodness - it tastes good, and keeps your fingers nice and clean!
The sun has now been shining for the fifth day in row (a rarity here in Northern Ireland!), and feeling inspired by all the bright colours, I thought we'd give this lentil and root vegetable mash a try. As you can see, it looks lovely and bright and cheery, but does it taste that way too?
In this first post we'll make the mash itself, and in the next we'll cook up some simple spelt-flour flatbread to eat it with. The original recipe only calls for parsnip (and we know how good they taste!), but I see this as a perfect opportunity to cook some carrots too. (Fun fact: Carrots were purple in antiquity!) To make this recipe more accessible, we'll be leaving out 'fleabane', a daisy-like plant which is no longer used in cooking.
Lentil and Root Veg Mash
"Boil the lentils in a clean pan with some salt. In the mortar, crush some pepper, cumin, coriander seed, rue, and fleabane. Add vinegar, honey, liquamen, & defrutum. Mix this with the lentils. Cook and mash parsnips, and add to the lentils. When it is cooked, add some extra virgin olive oil and serve appropriately." - Apicius, 5.2.1
- 1 Parsnip
- 1 Carrot
- 100g Split Red Lentils
- 1 tsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 tsp Rue
- 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Liquamen
- 1 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
- 1.5 tbsp Honey
- 3 tbsp Caroenum
- 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Add the lentils to a saucepan and pour in enough water to cover them. Throw in a pinch of salt, and bring to the boil. This will take approximately 20-30 minutes, and will require you to add more water every once in a while.
- Peel and chop up the carrot and parsnip, set them into a saucepan full of water, and bring to the boil.
- Whilst everything is boiling away, toast the various herbs and spices in a dry frying pan for around a minute, being careful not to burn them. Grind them all up together in a mortar and pestle.
- Once the lentils have turned to mush and the liquid has largely boiled away, add the spice mix and pour in the various liquids (except the oil). Stir it all together and let it simmer while you sort out the root vegetables.
- When the parsnips and carrots are cooked, drain the water from the pan and mash them up.
- Mix the lentils and root vegetables together with the tbsp of olive oil. Heat in the pan for a little while longer until the liquids have mostly evaporated. Serve and enjoy!
This mash makes for a remarkably filling meal - I had intended this recipe to serve just one, but it quickly became apparent that I would need help to finish it! Besides being filling, the dish was delicious. The lentils added a subtle, salty flavour to the meal, providing a wonderful backdrop to the sweetness of the parsnips and carrots. The sweetness of the root vegetables was further emphasised by the caroenum and honey, and the saltiness of the lentils by our friend the fish sauce. The dish was afforded some warmth by the cumin and coriander seeds, but rather amazingly, the stand out flavour and aroma came from the rue, despite so little being used. Final verdict? Filling and flavoursome - always a good combination.
Monday, 3 June 2013
There is little which compares to the smell and taste of honey-roast parsnips lifted straight out of the oven; here is a food which gets me giddy with excitement! Not necessarily so for those ancient Romans and Greeks. Pliny's advice is to boil the life out of them so that you might rid them of their pungent flavour. Aretaeus, the ancient Greek physician, describes them as "bad, even when boiled... (The parsnip is) flatulent and swells in the stomach." On the plus side however, Pliny reckons that if you simply carry one with you, you'll never be stung by serpents, and it does offer at least some excitement; it is a well known fact, apparently, that it is a powerful aphrodisiac!
We're lucky that somebody decided parsnip was worth a go - the Apicius volume contains quite a lot of parsnip recipes. Let's see how they taste.
Parsnip Mash with Salt Pork
(Serves 1 - multiply quantities accordingly for more)
"Mash the parsnips, then add cumin, rue, liquamen, passum, oil, coriander leaves, and leeks. Serve. Goes well with salt pork." - Apicius, 3.20.4
- 2 Slices Of Bacon or Salt Pork
- 1 Parsnip
- 1 Inch Of Leek
- 1 tsp Coriander
- 1/4 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1/2 tsp Rue
- 1 tbsp Liquamen
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1/2 tbsp Passum
- Chop the parsnip up into chunks - this makes for easier boiling and mashing. Add them to a pan of boiling water for 15-20 minutes, or until done.
- Meanwhile, toast the cumin seeds and grind with the rue, coriander, and leek. Mix this with the liquamen, passum, and olive oil.
- If using bacon, grill or fry it. If you are using salt pork, boil it in water for a few minutes before frying it, or else it will be unbearably salty.
- When the parsnip is boiled, drain away the water and mash it up. Add all of the herbs, spices, and liquids. Mix this together so that it is well blended. Serve with the pork and enjoy.
Bacon and parsnip make for good bed-fellows - the sweetness of the parsnip compliments (and counteracts) the saltiness of the meat, making this an ideal pairing, even without the addition of the various herbs and spices. In fact, when I first tried this dish I was convinced I couldn't even taste the added ingredients - it tasted just like parsnip! I tried cooking it again, this time adding more of each herb and spice, but the result was the same - all I could taste was parsnip. It was only when I ate mashed parsnip, without any additions, did I realise the effect these extra ingredients were having; they don't change the flavour of the vegetable, but rather they enhance it, emphasising its sweetness. This is a simple meal, but an enjoyable one which I heartily recommend.
I also wish to point out (and I cannot do this enough) that this parsnip mash is, without a doubt, the perfect accompaniment to the remarkably popular dill chicken recipe.