Rutabaga was widely cultivated in the Antiquity and Middle Ages, though now, in Italy, is difficult to find, so we decided to grow a few plants in our garden to try some historical recipes. Columella writes that rutabaga and turnip are foods for peasants and reports a couple of recipes to preserve them: with vinegar and brine and with mustard.
A more complex recipe for a preserve appears in a booklet written between the 8th and 9th centuries, the Appendicula de Condituris Variis attributed to Johannes Damascenus. In this text, the rutabaga is cut into two or four parts, depending on the size. After keeping the rutabaga in salted water for four days and in warm water for three, the author recommends simmering it in aqua mulsa, which is mead, washing it, and preserving the rutabaga with saffron, musk, cinnamon, and cardamom.
In De Re Coquinaria we find two recipes for either rutabaga or turnips. The simpler recipe is similar to one reported in De Observatione Ciborum, written by the Byzantine physician Anthimus: in the Roman source, the simmered rutabaga is dressed with olive oil and vinegar, in the latter text, instead, with salt and olive oil. Anthimus recommends a second preparation for rutabaga, similar to the one we are preparing today: it may be cooked with cured pork fatback or meat. In De Flore Dietarum, written in the 11th century, we find the same preparation for turnip: the tubers are simmered two times, discarding the first cooking water and cooking them the second time with fatty meat.
The recipe in Anonimo Toscano’s Libro de la Cocina is just a list of ingredients that we may add to the cooked rutabaga: meat, eggs, saffron, and goat milk. The ingredients are optional, and saffron is recommended if we want to color the rutabaga yellow. We have many possibilities: to make a stew with just rutabaga and eggs or use different kinds of meat, such as mutton, beef, or another cut of pork. Milk gives a rich and sweet flavor to rutabaga, but it is not necessary to make an excellent dish.
The author suggests lardo dei polli, which probably just means chicken fat, but you can use the cooking fat you prefer, for instance lard or olive oil.
Our translation of the Libro de la Cocina , accompanied by an introduction, notes about the recipes, and a glossary, is available on Amazon. To know more about medieval food, we recommend Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook and De Observatione Ciborum. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Frank. You find further articles and translations of historical sources, among which the first nine books of De Re Coquinaria, Appendicula de Condituris Variis, and De Flore Dietarum, on our Patreon page.
For more historical recipes with vegetables, check out Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, which collects many recipes from the Antiquity to the early Modern Era. If you are interested in ancient food, we recommend reading Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources.
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250 gr pork belly
250 gr rutabaga
Cut the pork belly into small pieces and cook it in a pan for 15 minutes with a bit of lard. Peel and cut the rutabaga into pieces, then add it to the meat with two pinches of salt, cooking for another 40 minutes, until the rutabaga is completely tender. Soak the saffron in a bit of broth, then beat the egg and dilute it with the a little milk and the broth colored with saffron. Add this mixture to the stew, stir well, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Serve the stew still hot.
Tolli i capi di navoni, falli bullire un poco; da po’ sciugali un poco; poi li poni a cuocere nel lardo dei polli. E se vuoli farli coloriti, ponvi cruoco, overo ova debattute, distemperate col dicto brodo. E puoi ponervi ovi, carne apeçata o tritata, e lacte di capra, quanto tu vuoli.
Take the rutabagas and boil them for a while, then dry them and cook them with chicken fat. If you want to color them, add saffron or beaten eggs, diluted with the cooking broth. You may add eggs, chopped or minced meat, and goat milk, the quantity you want.
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Medieval Tuscan Recipes Playlist
Ancient Roman Recipes Playlist
Ancient Greek Recipes Playlist
Medieval Recipes Playlist
Libro de la Cocina by Anonimo Toscano. Medieval Tuscan Recipes
Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Franks.
Registrum Coquine by Johannes Bockenheim. A medieval cookbook
Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes
Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-9
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus (6th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8th-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria (13th-14th century)
Enseignemenz (14th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Libro de la Cocina by Anonimo Toscano (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Libro de Arte Coquinaria by Maestro Martino – first and second part (15th century)
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