Category Archives: Event

‘Trimalchio’s Kitchen’ – Pop-up restaurant at Royal Holloway – 1st December 2014

On Monday, we were delighted to host a pop-up Roman recipe as part of the Christmas Market at Royal Holloway University. As well as having a display of our posters and food quiz, we had various tasty tidbits for people to try, including beef casserole, spelt bread and marinated olives. Lots of people cam by to try the dishes and talk to us about Roman food. The day was a great success, which I hope we can repeat soon.

The Festive Market in Founder's Quad, Royal Holloway

The Festive Market in Founder’s Quad, Royal Holloway

Thandi and Felix helping to set up the stall in the morning.

Thandi and Felix helping to set up the stall in the morning.

Will, Shivani and Cassandra getting ready to serve to the lunchtime crowds

Will, Shivani and Cassandra getting ready to serve to the lunchtime crowds

I would like to extend a very big thank you to the catering staff, especially Darren Coventry, at Royal Holloway who cooked such tasty food and to the undergraduate and Masters students who helped me run the stall throughout the day and did a great job drumming up business: Will, Felix, Rosie, Thandi, Leah, Cassandra, Shivani and Kallie – couldn’t have done it without you!

We’d love to hear what you thought about the food, so please let us know here or via our twitter: @NotJustDormice

If you would like to try some of the food we cooked today at home, the recipes are included below.


Beef Casserole (carnes vaccinae)

1 kg beef

1 tsp olive oil

1 leek

2 stalks celery

Half head of fennel (c. 175 g)

120 ml red wine vinegar

90 ml red wine

1 tbsp honey

2 cloves

1 tsp peppercorns

1 tbsp reduced grape juice


Preheat the oven to 170C.

Cut the beef into small pieces and brown in the olive oil.

Coarsely chop the celery, leek and fennel, then add them to the beef with the vinegar and wine.

Pour on enough water to cover the ingredients.

Put the lid on the casserole and place it in the oven for 2 hours.

Add the ground peppercorns, ground cloves, honey, salt and reduced grape juice to the stew.

Stir and leave to marinate for 6 hours.

Reheat before serving. 


Marinated olives with herbs (epityrum varium)

 100 g whole green olives

100 g whole black olives

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp fennel seeds

Bunch of fresh coriander leaves

Sprig of rue

3 mint leaves

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp white wine vinegar

Grind the cumin and fennel seeds to a fine powder.

Finely chop the coriander, rue and mint.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and stir.

(Olives can be chopped as well as whole)

Our marinated olives - can you spot the 'deliberate' mistake?

Our marinated olives – can you spot the ‘deliberate’ mistake?

Cato’s Roman Bread

500g spelt flour

350ml water

Pinch of salt

Some olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Add the flour to the bowl along with the pinch of salt and mix.

Pour a splash of olive oil into the bowl.

Slowly add in the water, mixing as you go, until you get a dough which isn’t too floury and isn’t too sticky.

Knead the dough and form into a circular shape.  Score the top of the loaf with a knife, dividing it into 8 (this will make it look like the bread found in Pompeii).

Place on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray and bake for 45 minutes.

The bread is cooked when it sounds hollow if tapped on the base (as the bakers on Bake Off do!) – it won’t rise much because there isn’t any yeast.

We also added some dried apricots into ours, which gave a nice fruity twist.

Our (regimented) spelt bread rolls

Our (regimented) spelt bread rolls


Visit to Corinium Museum

Yesterday we had our first meeting with the lovely (and very helpful!) staff at the Corinium museum to begin planning our Spring/Summer 2015 exhibition on Roman food. The collections team, composed of Alison Brookes, James Harris and Heather Dawson, told us all about their newly reorganized collections and the museum’s large storehouse at Northleach. We will be selecting objects from both the museum and the storehouse, along with some material on loan from the British Museum, to put on display. After planning a trip to check out the boxes of material at Northleach (a very exciting prospect for archaeologists) the meeting ended with a lively discussion about chickens and pine cones!

The team then took us on a tour of our exhibition space and we discovered that we have quite a lot of it. When all the important details such as panel space, glass cases and power outlet locations had been recorded, we were then taken on a tour of Corinium museum; and what a museum it is! The Roman section is extensive and they have an excellent display of all sorts of Roman objects from coins to ceramics to bronze spoons to mosaics. It is clear that the Roman town of Corinium was quite wealthy. The dioramas are simultaneously entertaining and informative (especially the full size Roman soldier on horseback and the man working in the butcher shop). We were then shown the reconstructed Roman garden that has recently been cleaned up by a dedicated volunteer. As part of our exhibition we hope to plant herbs that were used to flavour food during Roman times.

Checking out our exhibition space.

Checking out our exhibition space.

After the meeting, two of us food for thoughters (Erica Rowan and Lisa Lodwick) ventured to the nearby Chedworth Roman villa. That is a site definitely worth seeing, not only for the well preserved mosaics but also for its beautiful setting in the Cotswold countryside.

We are heading to Northleach on October 22 and so stay tuned for a full report on our storehouse adventure!

Corinium mosaic

Mosaic from the baths at Chedworth villa.

Medieval MasterChef in Istanbul

I’ve recently been lucky enough to have enjoyed a trip to Istanbul, along with colleagues from the EngLaId project ( to present a paper at a session comparing eastern cuisine and western food customs ( in the middle ages at the annual European Association of Archaeologists conference (, courtesy of the Meyerstein Fund at the University of Oxford.

The conference itself was an enormous event attracting approximately 3000 archaeologists from all over the world and taking over the buildings of Istanbul Technical University almost entirely. Sessions ranged over every archaeological topic imaginable from the Paleolithic to Heritage Management, and outside of the main business of the conference delegates were treated to a reception in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum and the gardens of Topkapi Palace and a party on a platform at Sirkeci train station.

The session at which I spoke was brilliantly organised by Joanita Vroom, Roos van Oosten (both of Leiden University) and Yona Waksman (of Laboratoire Archéométrie et Archéologie at the University of Lyon). The scope of the session was eating habits and food practices in medieval Europe using different approaches, with a particular focus on linking “cooking revolutions” to changing pottery shapes, food customs, dietary practices and house transformations. The session organisers were very reassuring to the relatively inexperienced PhD students like me, and a succession of useful papers discussing evidence for eating and drinking from a variety of medieval contexts including Islamic Iberia and post-reformation nunneries in Modena ensued. A particular highlight of the session for me was Roos van Oosten’s paper on the relationship of the shape of medieval pots from the Low Countries to other aspects of contemporary material culture, such as types of fuel used and the placement of hearths within buildings.

Medieval MasterChef Session


My own paper was essentially a version of research which I’ve previously blogged about for Food For Thought under ‘”Big Data” and Food in Roman Britain” and so I won’t go into it in detail here; except to say that I focused on changes in eating and drinking from late Roman to early medieval England in order to make the research relevant to the themes of the session. I also used my paper to showcase a new case study using the site of Yarnton in the Upper Thames Valley. In this case study my argument is that changes in domestic architecture at Yarnton from the late Roman to middle Saxon period may be linked to changes in food; specifically that the adoption of halls in the middle Saxon period may reflect a shift to more communally oriented forms of ceramic and therefore more communal eating habits.

Outside of the conference much fun was had by the EngLaId team. We got to know the streets of Istanbul, looked after a cat named Morris, consumed the local street food, including the tremendous fish sandwiches from the boats at Eminonu pier, met up with old friends and attempted (unsuccessfully) to track down the elusive Dr Joy (of Cambridge University) through the bars and back street kebab houses around Taksim Square.

Archaeology Party at Sirkeci Station


‘Food for Thought’ at the East Oxford Community Classics Centre – 08.09.2014

This week we were delighted to present a guest workshop for the East Oxford Community Classics Centre as part of their Ancient Roman Cookery Project:

The workshop participants involved students at Cheney School in Oxford. There was lots of interest in the event, so we had 15 Year 8 Design and Technology students, who had little prior knowledge of the ancient world, and 19 GCSE Latin students. After giving the group a short talk about sources of evidence for food in the Roman world, we had a Roman pottery handling session. Each small group of 4-5 students was given a sherd of Roman pottery and asked to think about what its shape, size, colour and material might suggest about the original function of the pot. The students did really well in this task and paid a lot of attention the to details – I was particularly impressed by the groups who correctly worked out that their sherds were part of Roman grinding bowls (‘mortaria’).

Some of the pottery recording sheets from the workshop.

Some of the pottery recording sheets from the workshop.


A sherd from a Roman grinding bowl ('mortarium'). The inside is covered in small pieces of quartz to create a rough surface for grinding, just like in a mortar and pestle today.

A sherd from a Roman grinding bowl (‘mortarium’). The inside is covered in small pieces of quartz to create a rough surface for grinding, just like in a mortar and pestle today.

Following this, we then had a quiz about what foods were imported by the Romans into Britain, what foods were the most expensive in the Roman world and what foods were not part of a Roman diet. The idea that apples were not native to Britain caused quite a stir in the room, as did the fact that many things that we associate with a ‘Mediterranean diet’ (tomatoes, peppers etc) were not even known to the Romans.

There was lots of enthusiasm in the room, so I am sure the project will be a great success and I look forward to hearing how it progresses!


If you are interested in holding a class on Roman food and would like some ideas or resources, please contact us via Twitter, Facebook or email for more information:

Food For Thought at Horatio’s Garden

Sunday saw the first event of our ‘Food for Thought’ project. The event was held at Horatio’s Garden in the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre of Salisbury District Hospital ( ), and was focussed around a ‘Roman lunch’ for staff, patients and their families – c. 75 of whom came. The wonderful Horatio’s Garden team put on a delicious spread of boiled eggs, olives, ham and wild boar sausages with spelt and honey cakes for dessert and pomegranate juice to drink.

Dan and Miranda help to prepare the lunch

Dan and Miranda help to prepare the lunch

Olivia with a tasty selection of Roman cakes.

Olivia with a tasty selection of Roman cakes.

Alongside the food we had a set of posters created by members of the ‘Food for Thought’ team, which introduced ways of learning about food in the Roman world, discussed the evidence for food in Roman Britain and Italy and posed questions about food and identity. Erica and Lisa also put together a display of seeds and shells with a microscope to help people view the smaller objects – lots of people were particularly intrigued by how well the eggshells were preserved!

Erica and Lisa setting up their environmental archaeology display.

Erica and Lisa setting up their environmental archaeology display.

Dan had a portable display of pottery from Roman Britain, which he used to introduce people to the basics of pottery analysis and how it relates to food. We also gave out handouts with Roman recipes for people to try at home and we dotted around the garden some quiz sheets about food in the Roman world.

Dan with his pottery sherds.

Dan with his pottery sherds.

As well as the archaeology, it was a pleasure to work again with artist Miranda Creswell, who put on a display of some of her recent pieces – chopping boards (including an old one of mine!) on which Miranda has drawn landscapes. These provided a nice link between food preparation and the land and were hidden in various parts of the garden.

One of Miranda's chopping boards.

One of Miranda’s chopping boards.

We couldn’t have had a better start to the project – lovely weather, tasty food, good company and interesting conversations. Thank you, Horatio’s Garden!

The project team.

The project team.