Medieval Brodium Sarracenium – Saracenic Chicken


The Liber de Coquina is an extensive cookbook, written in Latin around the end of the 13th century, in which we find not only Italian recipes, but also some coming from other European countries or inspired by Arabic cuisine.
It is unclear how much the recipe we are preparing today, called brodium Sarracenium, derives from an actual Arabic dish, but we know that many medieval Italian cookbooks partially use the Arabic traditions to create something different, as we saw in the past preparing the Romania, an excellent chicken stew with pomegranates.
As to prepare Romania, the anonymous author of the Liber de Coquina uses lardum, cured pork fatback, that clearly does not belong to the Arabic culture.
In any case, independently from the origin of this plate, the outcome is surely something that in Italy, still today, we would associate with Arabic cuisine, with delicious sweet-and-sour flavors, given by the presence of dates and raisins, and a great blend of spices.
We colored this plate with saffron, a perfect pairing with the other ingredients, but the author just recommends adding spices and coloring the dish as we want.
Another way to give color to it is by adding herb juice: pound aromatic herbs in the mortar (such as sage, mint, parsley, or dill), then dilute with a bit of water, and sift the juice, adding it to the stew at the end of cooking.
Other suitable spices, according to the preferences of the author of the Liber de Coquina, are surely cinnamon or ginger. Choose the ones you prefer.
The author writes to dilute the sauce with wine and succi agri, acidic juices. We chose lemon, but you can use others, such as pomegranate wine, green-sorrel or orange juice, or verjuice, all mentioned by Mainus de Maineris in his Opusculum de Saporibus.
The original recipe calls for capon, but we used chicken instead.

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chicken or capon
cured pork fatback
peeled almonds
spices (long pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron)

Roast the chicken for about 40 minutes. Mince the cured pork fatback, pit the dates, and shell the almonds. Soak the saffron in warm water and grind the other spices in the mortar. Toast a slice of bread.
When the chicken is cooled, cut it into pieces and remove the liver. Add a piece of liver and crustless bread to the spices in the mortar, diluting with the juice of half a lemon and white wine.
Melt the cured pork fatback in a pan, then add the chicken, the sauce, saffron, raisins, dates, and whole almonds. Stew the chicken for about 40 minutes. The cooking time may change depending on the size of the chicken.

Original text
De brodio sarracenio: pro brodio sarraceno, accipe capones assatos et ficatella eorum cum speciebus et pane assato tere bene, distemperando cum bono vino et succis agris. Tunc frange membratim dictos capones et cum predictis mite ad bulliendum in olla, suppositis dactilis, uvis grecis siccis, amigdalis integris mondatis et lardo sufficienti. Colora sicut placet.

Saracenic broth: to make Saracenic broth, take roasted capons and their livers with spices and toasted bread, pound them well diluting with good wine and acidic juices. Then cut the capons into pieces and cook in a pot with the ingredients mentioned before, placing on top dates, Greek raisins, whole peeled almonds, and sufficient lardo. Color as you like.

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Registrum Coquine by Johannes Bockenheim. A medieval cookbook
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)

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