Medieval Venetian Shrimp – Savore de Gambari


Shrimp appear rarely in medieval cookbooks, usually as an ingredient in fillings for pies such as the pastello de gambari that we prepared in the past. In Maestro Martino’s Libro de Arte Coquinaria, we find two recipes: in the first, the shrimp are simply simmered in a mixture of water and vinegar; the second, for stuffed shrimp, is more complex: the pulp is minced and mixed with eggs, cheese, aromatic herbs, almonds, and raisins, then this mixture is used to stuff the shrimp shells.
Except for the raisins and cheese, all the ingredients listed there are all part of the recipe we are going to prepare today, called çadelo or savore per gambari in Anonimo Veneziano’s Libro di Cucina (14th century) and sapor gambaricum in the funny, macaronic Latin of Teofilo Folengo in a poem titled Coquinae ars et scientia in coelum Iovis, which collects twenty recipes. This text was written in the 16th century, but the recipes clearly belong to the medieval tradition and imitate the methods of Anonimo Veneziano.
There are minor differences between the texts: Folengo recommends only bread (whereas Anonimo Veneziano writes to use either bread or almonds) and strong spices (instead of strong and sweet spices) and omits olive oil.
Luckily, in the Libro di Cucina we find the recipes for these blends of spices. Sweet spices include cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and cinnamon leaves; the spices considered strong, instead, are black pepper, long pepper, cloves, and nutmeg. We have chosen some from these lists and added grains of paradise, another spice used by Anonimo Veneziano, which pairs particularly well with the other ingredients. Neither author specifies which herbs to use. Folengo writes bonherba, identical to Anonimo Veneziano’s herbe bone: good herbs. We have selected a few herbs that are available in our garden this season, but use the ones you have, for instance dill, parsley, oregano, or marjoram.
Anonimo Veneziano, unlike Folengo, parboils the shrimp. We skipped this step because the shrimp taste better when they are not overcooked. In our preparation, we used 700 grams of shrimp, about 20 grams of almonds, and a hard-boiled egg yolk, with two tablespoons of olive oil and verjuice, adding two pinches of salt and spices. In any case, feel free to change the proportions according to your taste.
We recommend a good amount of aromatic herbs for a better result. If you do not have verjuice, use a little vinegar or another sour juice, such as lemon or orange juice.

The complete translation of Anonimo Veneziano’s Libro di Cucina is availabe on our Patreon page, as well as part of Maestro Martino’s Libro de Arte Coquinaria and several other ancient and medieval sources.
To know more about late-medieval cooking, check out our books Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook, which contains 15th-century recipes written by the German cook Johannes Bokenheim, and Libro de la Cocina. Medieval Tuscan recipes, a text written in the 14th century also known as Anonimo Toscano. For the passage between ancient and medieval cooking, we recommend De Observatione Ciborum. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Frank.
If you are interested in ancient food, read Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources.
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aromatic herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme, fennel, mint)
spices (black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon leaves, grains of paradise)
olive oil

Hard-boil an egg, then peel it and remove the yolk. Meanwhile, peel the shrimp, keeping their heads aside. Mince the aromatic herbs, then pound the spices in the mortar and add the herbs, almonds, and egg yolk. In another mortar, pound some shrimp heads and add a bit of water, then pass the liquid through a sieve and add it to the mixture of herbs and spices. Mix the sauce and add verjuice and olive oil.
Stir-fry the shrimp for a couple of minutes, then add the sauce and cook a little more. Serve the shrimp still hot with the sauce.

Sapor gambaricum (Teofilo Folengo)
Alter gambaricum mira facit arte saporem,
gambara disgussat, quibus ante cavaverat ova,
pistat aquam, stillans colat inde, capitque bonherbam
rossolaque ovorum, panis mollamen, et ista
conterit, agresto quae mollit, aquaque pusilla.
Post haec acetosat fortis speciebus et ova
quae prius abstulerat guacettum ficcat in ipsum.

Another makes the sauce for shrimp with wonderful skill. He peels the shrimp after removing their eggs, pounds the heads with water, and then strains them, beating them with good herbs, egg yolk, and bread soaked in verjuice and a little water. After that, he flavors them with strong spices and peeled eggs and puts them [the shrimp] in the sauce.

Çadelo or sauce for shrimp (Anonimo Veneziano)
Toy li gambari e lessali e trane fuora le code monde poy pestalli tuto l’altro e mitige un poco d’aqua, poy lo colla. Toy un pocho de herbe bone e toy rossi de ovi e mandole overo molena de pane e pista ben in mortaro e distempera con agresta; mitige uno pocho d’aqua sí che non sia acetoso e mitige specie dolze e forte e olio, fiçili code e mitili in quello savore che ty ay fato e fa bolire quando te pare.

Simmer the shrimp, remove their peeled tails, and pound them with a little water, then pass them through a sieve. Take some good herbs, egg yolks, and almonds or bread without crust, pound all the ingredients in the mortar, and mix with verjuice. Add a little water so that the sauce does not become acidic, then add sweet and strong spices and oil. Fry the tails and place them in the sauce that you have made, boiling them as much as you like.

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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 (Ancient Rome)
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)
Liber de Coquina – first part (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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