This week we present a recipe from the 9th book of De Re Coquinaria, titled Thalassa (from Greek, sea) and entirely dedicated to fish and seafood. This recipe is for cuttlefish, simmered and cooled in water, then simply dressed and served with eggs.
The author does not specify how to prepare the eggs and just writes to add them to the plate and season them as we want. We guess that the most common way to cook eggs for a dish like this is by hard-boiling them, but in the 7th book of De Re Coquinaria, we find a recipes for fry eggs (which must be served with oenogarum, a sauce based on wine and garum) and poached eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are seasoned in two ways: with wine, garum, and oil (the variant we chose for our plate), or with garum, pepper, and laser. Prepare the eggs as you want, depending on your taste.
We paired these simple recipes with a salad described by Galen in De Facultatibus Alimentorum, prepared with lettuce, garum, olive oil, and vinegar. The physician writes that in summer, when lettuce starts bolting, usually people boil it, as he does since he is suffering from a toothache, but lettuce can also be eaten raw. You can pair this cuttlefish recipe with other salads, for example cucumber salad or a fruit salad.
Differently from other times, we did not grind the pine nuts in the mortar. The reason is simple: the ingredients listed to dress the cuttlefish can not become a sauce without using an excessive quantity of garum, since there are no further liquids.
Grinding the pine nuts (without exaggerating with garum) would make a quite solid paste, not a sauce. For this reason, we thought that the pine nuts were meant to be used whole.
To know more about the kinds of silphium in the Antiquity and Middle Ages and to read the translation of the recipe by Gargilius Martialis to prepare oenogarum from scratch, check out our Patreon page, in which you find further articles about foods in ancient Rome and Middle Ages, in addition to translations of historical sources of cooking and dietetics.
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500 gr cuttlefish
white wine vinegar
Clean and simmer the cuttlefish, then place it in cool water. Grind the pepper in the mortar. Wash and chop the lettuce. Hard-boil the eggs, then cut them into half.
Mix wine, olive oil, and a bit of garum and pour it on the eggs.
Mix vinegar, olive oil, and a bit of garum and pour it on the lettuce. Cut the cuttlefish and dress it with garum and pepper, grating on top a bit of asafoetida and adding whole pine nuts.
Notes about the ingredients
The author uses laser, the Latin term for silphium. We substituted it with asafoetida, equivalent to the cheapest variety of ancient laser, called laser Parthicum.
Liquamen is the word that the author of De Re Coquinaria uses for garum. You can substitute it with salt, muria (the ancestor of colatura di alici), or a South-East Asian fish sauce. If you want to know more about garum, here you find the recipe to prepare it from scratch, starting from a passage of the Geoponics.
For this recipe, you can use white, black, or long pepper, all at disposal of the ancient Roman cooks. We suggest black or white pepper, whose flavor pairs better with seafood.
Sepia elixa ab aheno: in frigidam missas cum pipere, lasere, liquamine, nucleis. Ova addes, et condies ut voles.
Ova elixa: liquamine, oleo, mero vel ex liquamine, pipere, lasere.
Cuttlefish simmered in a copper pot: after placing it in cool water, [dress it] with pepper, laser, garum, pine nuts. Add eggs and dress them how you want.
Hard-boiled eggs: garum, oil, excellent wine or garum, pepper, laser.
Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-3
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus – first part (6th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano – first part (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Copadia Agnina – Lamb Stew
Apothermum – Spelt Cakes
Pullus Parthicus – Roast Chicken
Tisana Barrica – Barley Soup
Beef Roast and Shallots
Staitites – Ancient Greek Sweet
Chicken Meatballs and Mashed Peas
Sweet Fritters – Dulcia Domestica
Columella’s Moretum and Hapalos Artos
Ancient Roman Frittata
A Saturnalia Recipe – Roast with Saffron Sauce
Muria – Ancestor of Colatura di Alici
Globi – Ancient Roman Sweet
The Diet of the Roman Legionaries – Buccellatum, Lardum, and Posca
How to make garum
Ancient Roman Gourd and Eggs
Ofella – Ancient Roman Steak
Fruit salads – Melon and Peaches
Isicia Marina – Shrimp Cakes and Cucumber Salad
Sala Cattabia – Snow and Posca
Copadia – Beef Stew
Puls Punica – Phoenician Dessert
Farcimina – Spelt and Meat Sausages
Ova Spongia ex Lacte – Sweet Omelettes
Flatbread and Chickpea Soup
Salted Fish with Arugula Sauce
Savillum – Cheesecake
Pasta and Meatballs – Minutal Terentinum
Venison Stew with Spelt Puls
Veal with Allec Sauce – Ius in Elixam Allecatum
Isicia Omentata – Meatballs Wrapped in Caul Fat
Placenta – Honey Cheesecake
Pork Laureate – Porcellum Laureatum
Poppy Seed Bread with Ancient Dry Yeast
Cured Olives and Epityrum