Category Archives: Recipes

Try this at home! Recipes from the Roman Food Festival (30-31 May 2015)

Last weekend we had a great time tasting, sniffing and touching Roman food and food remains. For those of you who couldn’t make it, or for those who want more, here are recipes for some of the food from the festival.

Sampling some of these recipes at the festival.

Sampling some of these recipes at the festival.


Mulsum was a wine flavoured with spices and sweetened with honey, mixed in just before it was drunk. The taste is similar to mulled wine, but more watery.

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 4 tbsp runny honey

Add all the ingredients to a large container or pitcher and stir well. Refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the spices to infuse, then remove the cinnamon stick and cloves. Serve warm or chilled

This will make about 4 cups and can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 5 days.

If you are using a thick honey, you may need to blend the wine, water and honey before adding in the spices.

Simon's 'Marcham Mulsum' - are these the modern equivalent of amphorae?

Simon’s ‘Marcham Mulsum’ – are these the modern equivalent of amphorae?


Moretum is the name given to a dish prepared in a mortarium or grinding bowl – like a modern pestle and mortar. It is often made of fresh cheese, herbs, olive oil and vinegar and is very similar to what we call pesto. Virgil, a Roman poet, even wrote a poem dedicated to moretum.

  • 1 small head of lettuce
  • 100g fresh mint
  • 50 g fresh parsley
  • 200 g ricotta cheese
  • Pepper
  • 1 small leek/celery
  • 50 g coriander seeds
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • Vinegar
  • Olive oil

Process all the ingredients in a food processor – or to be more authentic, in a pestle and mortar.

You can use this as a dip with celery and carrot sticks. You could also spread it on Roman bread – for a recipe, click here.



Libum was a special kind of cake used as an offering to the gods that was sweetened with honey. The recipe comes from Cato (De Agricultura 75), but the cakes are also mentioned by Roman poets, like Ovid.

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 beaten egg
  • ½ cup clear honey
  • Bay leaves

Grease a baking tray and cover with the bay leaves. Beat the cheese until smooth. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Slowly add the flour to the beaten cheese and egg. Gather up the dough and gently form into a round ball (for one large cake) or into small balls (for smaller cakes). Place the ball(s) directly onto the bay leaves. Bake in a hot oven (425F/200C/gas mark 7) for c 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and score . Warm the honey and pour over the cake(s). Serve warm.

Simon and the Trendles Project with their foodstuffs ready for sampling!

Simon and the Trendles Project with their foodstuffs ready for sampling!

These recipes were cooked and selected for the festival by Simon Blackmore, who is one of the Trendles Project team. We are very grateful to Simon and the Trendles Project for sharing their food with us! To find out more about the Trendles Project, visit their website.


Happy Valentine’s Day! A Roman oyster recipe

The Romans seem to have been very fond of oysters. In Britain, we find large numbers of oyster shells on Roman sites, particularly on temples. This is interesting as shellfish seems to have been avoided as a foodstuff in Britain after the Mesolithic. The presence of oyster shells, then, on sites in the Roman period represents a big change in tastes and food rules.

Apicius (9.VI) gives us a recipe for oyster sauce.

in ostreis: piper ligusticum oui uitellum acetum liquamen oleum et uinum. Si uolueris et mel addes.

 Sauce for oysters: pepper, lovage, egg yolk, vinegar, liquamen, oil and wine. You can also add honey if you like.

Oyster shells and a mussel shell from Roman Cirencester (courtesy of Corinium Museum).

Oyster shells and a mussel shell from Roman Cirencester (courtesy of Corinium Museum).

If you want to make this yourself, buy fresh oysters and open them as close to the time of eating as possible. The oysters can be served raw, or baked in their shell (we think the Romans preferred to bake theirs).


Fresh oysters

Pinch of ground black pepper

Pinch of lovage seeds (celery seeds will do, if you can’t find lovage)

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp Thai fish sauce

1tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp white wine

1 tbsp honey (optional)


To make the sauce, mix a pinch of pepper and lovage with egg yolks. Then add the vinegar a drop at a time, as if making a mayonnaise. Finally, add in the olive oil and white wine, so that you get a smooth sauce. Season with the Thai fish sauce, to taste. Add in the honey, if you want a sweeter sauce. Serve immediately.

‘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

Eating like Romans?

A couple of weekends ago, I experimented with cooking some of the recipes from Sally Grainger’s ‘Cooking Apicius’. I cooked lamb with coriander and peaches in a cumin sauce. Both recipes were pretty easy to prepare and used ingredients that you can buy in most supermarkets. The lamb was particularly nice and would probably make a good barbecue dish (assuming the sun stays out for long enough!). The peaches were also quite nice. The fish sauce was barely discernible and added a nice salty edge to all the sweet syrup, honey and dessert wine. The strangest thing was the cumin as it was odd to taste something we ordinarily associate with savoury food in a dessert. I think if I were to cook the peaches again, I would put in just the tiniest bit of cumin, so that it is not too overwhelming.

Tucking into our Roman dinner - can you spot the non-Roman elements of our dinner?

Tucking into our Roman dinner – can you spot the non-Roman elements of our dinner?

For those who would like to try these recipes, here they are in slightly amended form:

Roast lamb with coriander (Apicius 8.6.8)

40 g ground coriander

freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

olive oil

4 double-loin lamb steaks or lamb chops

Add the black pepper and sea salt to the ground coriander. Brush the lamb with olive oil and press it into the ground coriander mixture. Grill or roast in the oven.

If you want you can grind the coriander yourself from seed for a texture that is more like breadcrumbs.

Lamb with coriander.

Lamb with coriander.

Peaches in a cumin sauce (Apicius 4.2.34)

500 g firm peaches

300 ml sweet white wine

50 ml dessert wine

2 tbsp grape or date syrup

2 tbsp honey

A pinch of cumin

1 tsp cornflour

1 tsp fish sauce

Cut the peaches into quarters. Simmer the wines, grape syrup and honey. Poach the peaches until just cooked. Remove them and put in a bowl. Add the cumin to the pan. Reduce the cooking liquor by one-third. Thicken with the cornflour. Flavour with the fish sauce to taste.

If you can’t find grape or date syrup in the shop, you could try reducing grape juice down to a syrup instead.

Peaches in cumin sauce.

Peaches in cumin sauce.