Ancient Roman Stew


We prepare today the copadia, an ancient Roman stew, from the collection of recipes attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius. You will find below the original Latin source with our English translation. We chose beef, but Apicius doesn’t specify the kind or the cut of the meat, so you can use any meat you prefer. This dish requires a long cooking, but it is so tasty that it is worth doing it. We suggest paring it with barley polenta, taro or fava beans. Enjoy your meal!

800 gr beef
1 red onion
peeled almonds
1 date
1 tablespoon honey
extra virgin olive oil
50 ml red wine vinegar
black pepper

How to prepare the defritum
First, we prepare the defritum (some authors, like Columella, spelled it defrutum). It is a sweetener made from concentrated grape must, frequently used in ancient Roman cooking. Press the grapes in a mortar and extract the juice. If they are in season, you can use wine grapes to obtain a sweeter taste. Simmer the juice at low heat until it reduces by half.

Copadia 1.jpg

Peel and toast the almonds in a pan for a few minutes, then coarsely grind them, and add pepper and lovage. The quantity of spices is up to your taste, as the habit of Apicius and other early cooks. Grind them finely and add a date.
Now, pour olive oil in the pot and wilt the chopped onion without browning it. Add the meat, cut in big pieces, and sear it, then add two tablespoons of defritum, one tablespoon of garum, 50 ml of vinegar and one tablespoon of honey. When the meat starts to produce juice, add the ground almonds and spices to thicken the sauce. Cook the stew for three hours or more, then plate it and serve with coarsely-chopped parsley.

Copadia 2.jpg

Garum was an ancient Mediterranean fish sauce. It was produced in the same way of some modern-day South-East Asian fish sauces, so you can use them to substitute the garum. You can also use salt instead, but you will lose richness and complexity of flavor. We suggest not to add an excessive quantity of garum and adjust the saltiness to your taste.

Copadia 3.jpg

Original recipe
Ius in copadiis: piper, ligusticum, petroselinum, cepulam, amygdala tosta, dactylum, mel, acetum, liquamen, defritum, oleum.

Ingredients for copadia: pepper, lovage, parsley, onion, toasted almonds, date, honey, vinegar, garum, defritum, oil.

mashing them. If they are sour, add honey and serve.

YouTube Channel

Ancient Roma Recipes Playlist

Ancient Roman Farmer’s Meal VIDEO
Ancient Roman Poached Eggs VIDEO
Ancient Roman Stew VIDEO
Ancient Roman Sea Bass VIDEO
Ancient Roman Stuffed Dates VIDEO
Ancient Roman Mussels VIDEO
Ancient Roman Taro VIDEO
Ancient Roman Guinea Fowl VIDEO
Ancient Roman Fava Beans VIDEO