This flavorful and aromatic recipe is part of the cookbook attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius, called De Re Coquinaria (about cooking). It is the only guinea-fowl dish in his book, but we know from other authors, like Columella and Martial, that the pullus Numidicus, called also African chicken, was widely bred in the villae and common on wealthy Romans’ tables.
Despite the number of ingredients, common in Apicius’ recipes, the outcome is a well balanced and excellent roast coated with a delicious sauce. We will talk more about the ingredients. Below, you will find also the original recipe and the English translation.
We suggest pairing this plate with the taro recipe you can find here. Enjoy!
1 guinea fowl
white wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
spices (black pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, asafoetida)
Parboil the guinea fowl for 15 minutes, then remove it from the water and sprinkle with a little grated asafoetida and ground black pepper before putting it in the oven. This step prevents the meat from drying without losing its aromas.
While the guinea fowl is roasting, prepare the sauce. Grind in the mortar black pepper, cumin, and coriander seeds to taste. Chop a few rue leaves then add them in the mortar with pine nuts, and half a date cut into pieces grinding everything together. Now, grate a little asafoetida. Pour in a pan extra virgin olive oil, a bit of garum, vinegar, and the spices, mixing well. Put the pan on the fire, and when the sauce starts boiling, add wheat starch diluted with water and a bit of honey. Let the sauce thicken, then remove it from the fire.
Coat the guinea fowl with the sauce, sprinkling ground black pepper, and serve.
Note about the ingredients
Rue was one of the more common aromatic herbs in ancient Roman cooking. We find it in many sauces. Use just a few leaves, because its intense flavor can easily overpower the other aromas. In Italy, it grows spontaneously in many places, but its use is almost lost. We find it as a flavoring for grappa. It can be difficult to buy, so we suggest growing it in a vase. If you don’t find rue, you can substitute it with other fresh herbs. Rue’s flavor is irreplaceable, but you will get a delicious sauce also using cilantro, parsley or mint instead.
Asafoetida was a resin widely used by ancient Romans and Greeks, with the names laser or silphium. The most prized variety was laser Cyrenaicum, cultivated in modern-day Libya, made from a kind of giant fennel. It is no longer produced today, but the eastern variety, called laser Parthicum, is still widely used in many countries. In this recipe, Apicius used also the laseris radix. We substituted it with the resin.
Garum was an ancient Mediterranean fermented fish sauce, made with or without spices. The production technique was similar to the modern-day south-east Asian fish sauces. If you don’t find garum, you can use these fish sauces to substitute it or just salt.
Pullum Numidicum: pullum curas, elixas, lavas, lasere ac pipere aspergis et assas. teres piper, cuminum, coriandri semen, laseris radicem, rutam, caryotam, nucleos, suffundis acetum, mel, liquamen et oleum, temperabis. cum ferbuerit, amulo obligas, pullum perfundis, piper aspergis et inferes.
Clean, parboil, wash and sprinkle the guinea fowl with laser and black pepper, then roast it. Grind black pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, root of laser, rue, date, pine nuts. Pour and mix vinegar, honey, garum, and oil. As soon as it boils, thicken with starch. Coat the guinea fowl with the sauce, sprinkle with black pepper, and serve.