Moretum is a word that we met in the past, when we prepared a recipe from a poem attributed to Virgil, titled, indeed, Moretum. In Columella’s De Re Rustica, we find several variants for this recipe that, basically, consists in cheese pounded with aromatic herbs, with the addition of pepper (absent in Virgil’s recipe and substituted with garlic), vinegar, oil, and in a few variants, nuts and seeds (sesame seeds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, almonds).
Since Virgil’s farmer eats his moretum with a flatbread, we decided to pair Columella’s with a different kind of bread, selected from the many described in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists, in which the author reports quotes from other authors’ works. In this case, we chose the hapalos artos, which means soft bread, from a fragment by Chrysippus of Tyana, a famous ancient baker whose work is lost. We used his recipes in the past when we prepared the artolaganon and gastris.
For the bread, we used a dry yeast called musteus and described by Pliny and Palladius. We showed the method in the past preparing a poppy-seed bread from the Naturalis Historia. As described in the same passage of the Deipnosophists, however, Greeks (as well as Romans) had at disposal both dry and fresh yeast. To prepare ancient Roman sourdough, as Pliny describes thoroughly, check on the recipe for artolaganon.
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dry aromatic herbs (pennyroyal, thyme, oregano, savory)
20 gr pine nuts
200 gr firm cheese
white wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
Cut the cheese finely and pound it in the mortar with pine nuts. Mix well with the dry herbs, adding a little vinegar and ground pepper. Serve it pouring over extra virgin olive oil.
Note about the method and the ingredients
As Columella writes, there is no need to use all the aromatic herbs, just the ones we have, fresh or dried. Remember that thyme and savory are quite similar, whereas oregano may be substituted with marjoram and pennyroyal with mint.
Choose among pine nuts, walnuts, and almonds, or use all three, if you want.
The cheese must be firm enough to be pounded in the mortar. In the other recipes for moretum, Columella suggests using a fresh and salty cheese, an excellent idea even for this one, since there is no salt in the recipe. We used a fresh caciotta made with cow and sheep milk.
Caseum Gallicum vel cuiuscumque notae volueris minutatim concidito et conterito nucleosque pineos, si eorum copia fuerit, si minus, nuces avellanas torrefactas, adempta cute, vel amygdalas eaque, quae supra condimenta [satureiam, mentam, rutam, coriandrum, apium, porrum sectivum aut, si id non erit, viridem cepam, folia lactucae, folia erucae, thymum viride, vel nepetam, tum etiam viride puleium] pariter misceto acetique piperati exiguum adicito et permisceto compositumque oleo superfundito.
Aliter. Si condimenta viridia non erunt, puleium aridum vel thymum vel origanum vel aridam satureiam cum caseo conterito acetumque piperatum et oleum adicito. Possunt tamen haec arida, si reliquorum non sit potestas, etiam singula caseo misceri.
Cut Gallic cheese or another cheese finely and pound it with pine nuts, if you have enough; otherwise, add roasted and peeled hazelnuts or almonds to the herbs mentioned above [savory, mint, rue, cilantro, celery, leek or, if you do not have it, the green part of the onion, lettuce, arugula, fresh thyme or lesser calamint, and even fresh pennyroyal] and mix with a little peppery vinegar, pouring over oil.
Another recipe. If you do not have fresh herbs, pound with the cheese dry pennyroyal, thyme, oregano, or savory, and add peppery vinegar and oil. You can use just one herb if you do not have the others.
300 gr white wheat flour
1 musteus or one tablespoon of sourdough
100 ml milk
30 ml olive oil
Knead the flour with the milk and oil, adding two pinches of salt and breaking the musteus. Add the quantity of water necessary to obtain a quite soft consistency. Let the dough rest overnight. The following day, shape three bread rolls and bake them in the oven for about 40 minutes. Serve them still hot.
παρὰ δὲ τοῖς Ἕλλησι καλεῖταί τις ἄρτος ἁπαλὸς ἀρτυόμενος γάλακτι ὀλίγῳ καὶ ἐλαίῳ καὶ ἁλσὶν ἀρκετοῖς. δεῖ δὲ τὴν ματερίαν ἀνειμένην ποιεῖν. οὗτος δὲ ὁ ἄρτος λέγεται Καππαδόκιος, ἐπειδὴ ἐν Καππαδοκίᾳ κατὰ τὸ πλεῖστον ἁπαλὸς ἄρτος γίνεται, τὸν δὲ τοιοῦτον ἄρτον οἱ Σύροι λαχμὰν προσαγορεύουσι, καί ἐστιν οὗτος ἐν Συρίᾳ χρηστότατος γινόμενος διὰ τὸ θερμότατος τρώγεσθαι.
Among the Greeks, there is a bread called hapalos artos, made with a bit of milk and a sufficient quantity of oil and salt. The dough must be made soft. This kind of bread is called Cappadocian, since in Cappadocia it is prepared in huge quantities. The same bread is called by Syrians lachma and it is the best kind of bread in Syria, since it is eaten hot.
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Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources
Translations of Historical Sources
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Registrum Coquine (first part) by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Registrum Coquine (second part) by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum first part (11th century)
How to make garum
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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