Ancient Roman Mussels


Today we present an ancient Roman dish. This recipe comes from the cookbook attributed to Apicius, the most famous cook of Antiquity. It is a plate easy to prepare, yet it shows us the refined complexity of flavors typical of ancient Roman cooking. The sweetness of passito wine blends with the saltiness of garum and the delicate fragrance of savory brings out the flavors of the mussels, making us experience the perfect balance that characterizes Apicius’ recipes.

500 gr of mussels
1/3 leek
fresh or dry savory
1 tablespoon garum
100 ml of dry white wine
50 ml passito

Cut the leek without mincing it overly. Put the mussels into a hot pot and add the leek, wine, passito, garum, savory, and whole cumin seeds. The author suggests to mix it with water. Don’t use too much garum, because usually, mussels are rather salted. You can add more at the end of the cooking. In a few minutes, the dish is ready.

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Notes about the ingredients
Passito is a sweet wine, also known as raisin or straw wine, and it is produced with dried grapes. We find it frequently as a sweetener in ancient Roman cooking.
Garum is an ancient Mediterranean fermented-fish sauce, a staple ingredient in Apicius’ cooking. You can substitute it with a Sout-East Asian fish sauce, produced in the same way of some kind of garum. You can use also one tablespoon of salt instead, but you will lose a lot of flavor.

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Original recipe
In mitulis: liquamen, porrum concisum, cuminum, passum, satureiam, vinum. Mixta facies aquatius et ibi mitulos coques.

Mussels: garum, minced leek, cumin, passito, savory, wine. Mix all the ingredients with water and cook the mussels.

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