In De Re Coquinaria there are several recipes for chicken, one of the most common kinds of meat in ancient Rome. We prepared in the past roast and stewed chicken, in addition to a recipe for Guinea fowl, called in Latin pullus Numidicus.
In the Edict of Prices issued by Emperor Diocletian, we find out that a couple of chickens were sold for sixty denarii. To make an example, a single rabbit costed forty denarii, the same price for a duck.
The recipe we are presenting this week is very simple, but requires care in the preparation. First, the chicken must be opened well to be completely coated with the sauce. There are four spices: pepper, lovage, a moderate quantity of caraway, and laser vivum. The last ingredient is the fresh resin of silphium, which is no longer available, at least not in Italy. Since the recipe is called Pullus Parthicus, we can guess that the kind of laser the author is recommending is laser Parthicum, a cheaper variety with a strong smell that substituted the most costly kind, laser Cyrenaicum, and from the ancient descriptions appears equivalent to traditional asafoetida.
We chose long pepper for its strong and aromatic flavor, but the author writes nothing about which kind of pepper to use. We recommend following your taste: if you want, you can use two different kinds of pepper in the sauce and before serving the roast, for example black pepper and long pepper. In any case, the outcome will be delicious using just black pepper.
Since pepper is used two times, and once paired with lovage, do not exaggerate with the quantities to prevent this roast from becoming excessively spicy, unless you like it.
To know more about ancient Mediterranean spices, lovage, and the many kinds of silphium used since the Antiquity (and again in the Middle Ages), check out our Patreon page, where you find several articles and translations of historical sources, among which the first two books of De Re Coquinaria.
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Grind the pepper, lovage, and caraway in the mortar, then add a bit of garum and dilute with wine. Open well the chicken, place it in a cooking pan, and pour the sauce, grating on top a bit of asafoetida. Cook the chicken in the oven for about forty minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. Serve it dusted with pepper.
Pullum Parthicum: pullum aperies a navi et in quadrato ornas. Teres piper, ligusticum, carei modicum; suffunde liquamen; vino temperas. Componis in Cumana pullum et condituram super pullum facies. Laser [et] vivum in tepida dissolvis, et in pullum mittis simul, et coques. Pipere aspersum inferes.
Pullus Parthicus: open the chicken and place it on a plate. Grind pepper, lovage, a bit of caraway; add garum and dilute with wine. Place the chicken in a pan and pour the sauce on it. Dilute fresh laser in warm water, place it on the chicken, and cook it. Serve the chicken dusted with pepper.
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Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes
Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-2
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)
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