Meatballs and seafood cakes, as well as sausages, were quite common in ancient Roman cuisine. After having cooked in the last weeks pork meatballs and lucanica sausage, today we present cuttlefish cakes. In the cookbook attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius, De Re Coquinaria, the recipes of seafood cakes, called isicia marina, are simple and quick to prepare, but loaded with flavor and surprisingly good. You can prepare these cakes with shrimps, lobster, cuttlefish, or squid.
We served the cuttlefish cakes with a salad dressed with an ancient Roman sauce, called oxyporum. The recipe is here, while the video shows both the preparations.
Below, you will find the original recipe with the English translation and a note about the ingredients. Enjoy!
spices (asafoetida, white pepper, cumin, and lovage)
Grind in the mortar white pepper, cumin, and lovage, adding a bit of grated asafoetida. Put the spices aside; this spice mix will be sprinkled on the fish cakes before serving them.
To prepare the fish cakes, clean the cuttlefish, then mince and pound it in the mortar. Add a bit of garum and mix well with the cuttlefish. Grease your hands with a little olive oil and shape the cuttlefish cakes, then cook them on a slightly oiled griddle, just thirty seconds on each side. Plate the cuttlefish cakes sprinkled with the spice mix, and serve with lettuce salad dressed with oxyporum.
Note about the ingredients
Laser or silfium was one of the most used spices by ancient Mediterranean populations, as well as cumin and lovage (present in a wide part of Apicius’ recipes), in particular by Romans, Phoenicians, and Greeks. Instead of the root of laser, we used here the resin, called in ancient times laser Parthicum and still used in many countries with the name asafoetida. White, long, and black pepper, according to Pliny, were imported from India. We chose for this recipe white pepper, perfect with seafood, but Apicius doesn’t specify what kind we have to use.
Garum too was a typical ancient Mediterranean ingredient. According to the historical recipes left, it was a fermented sauce prepared with fish and salt, sometimes adding spices and aromatic herbs. The method of preparation was identical to many modern-day South-East Asian fish sauces. If you don’t find garum, you can use one of these fish sauces to substitute it or add just a pinch of sea salt. Remember that the cuttlefish is quite salty, so we suggest using a little quantity of garum.
Isicia fiunt marina de cammaris et astacis, de lolligine, de sepia, de lucusta. Isicium condies pipere, ligustico, cumino, laseris radice.
Isicia de lolligine: sublatis crinibus in fulmento tundes, sicuti adsolet. Pulpa et in mortario et in liquamine diligenter fricatur, et exinde isicia plassantur.
Isicia marina are prepared with shrimps, lobster, cuttlefish, squid. Season with pepper, lovage, cumin, root of laser.
Squid isicia: clean the squid. Pound the meat in the mortar and mix diligently with garum, then shape cakes with the paste.
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