Patina is a Latin word that can be roughly translated as plate. It is one of the characteristic dishes in ancient Roman cuisine, and in the cookbook conventionally attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius there are many patinae, prepared with always different ingredients. We find many fish recipes, but also fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts plates. In this case, we prepared an easy and quick recipe, the patina de pisciculis, a patina made with little fishes, with anchovies, a fish that pair well with the other ingredients suggested by Apicius. You can use any kind of fish, as long as they are small enough to be cooked whole.
The only fresh herb used here is oregano, an aroma that is still fundamental in modern-day Italian traditional cuisine. You can use it fresh or dried.
Below you will find a note about the ingredients and the original text with the English translation. Enjoy!
extra virgin olive oil
white dry wine
half an onion
spices (long pepper, lovage)
Grind in the mortar long pepper and lovage. Mince oregano and half an onion, then pound them with the spices and raisins in the mortar. Mix with a little garum, extra virgin olive oil, and dry white wine.
Gut and clean the anchovies, then precook them on a slightly oiled griddle.
Cook briefly the sauce, pouring wheat starch diluted in water to thicken it. Add the anchovies and cook it for a few minutes. When they are done, plate coating them with the sauce.
Note about the ingredients
We are using here long pepper, the most prized variety in ancient Rome according to Pliny. You can use black, white or long pepper according to your taste, all of three available in the Antiquity thanks to the trades with India.
Garum was an ancient fish sauce, prepared with fish fermented with salt, sometimes adding aromatic herbs and spices. It was widely used by many Mediterranean populations, in particular by Greeks, Roman, and Phoenicians. Reading the historical recipes survived thanks to Latin and Greek sources, we find that some types of garum were prepared in the same way as some modern-day South-East Asian fish sauces. If you don’t find garum, you can substitute it with one of this fish sauces, or just add a pinch of salt.
Apicius says nothing about how we have to precook the fish. You can roast, or simmer it according to your taste.
Patina de pisciculis: uvam passam, piper, ligusticum, origanum, cepam, vinum, liquamen, oleum. Transferes in patellam. Cum cocta fuerit, adicies in ipsam pisciculos coctos. Amulo obligas et inferes.
Plate of little fishes: raisins, pepper, lovage, oregano, onion, wine, garum, oil. Pour them in a pan. When the sauce is done, add precooked little fishes. Thicken with starch and serve.