The Diet of the Franks – Celery root stew


At first glance, medieval and ancient cuisine seem to be two completely different worlds, separated by irreconcilable differences, such as the preference for animal fats instead of olive oil and a generally less balanced taste that characterizes medieval preparations. In the late Middle Ages, the taste has clearly changed and the search for the complex equilibrium between the components of the dishes (saltiness, sweetness and acidity) typical of the Roman high cuisine seems to be lost. The absence of garum, replaced by cured pork fatback and cheese, weighs on the global change of taste. However, the transition from ancient traditions to late medieval cuisine was gradual, almost seamless. Texts such as Anthimus’ De Observatione Ciborum and Vinidarius’ Excerpta show how, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, cooks still referred to ancient traditions, with some minor changes that would become extraordinarily important in the future.
The disappearance of garum, a central element of Roman and Greek culinary culture, did not happen all at once. We know from Carolus Magnus’ Capitulare de Villis that it was still produced between the 8th and 9th centuries, at least in a part of Europe that was not under Byzantine rule, a few centuries after Anthimus. However, the Byzantine author of De Observatione Ciborum seems to neglect the use of garum, preferring simpler flavorings and the addition of ingredients that were not part of the ancient tradition, such as cloves, fundamental in late-medieval cuisine.
The recipe we present today is for celery root stew, a recipe between the Antiquity and early Middle Ages, prepared according to the principles described by Anthimus and comparing it with a recipe of De Re Coquinaria. The ancient Roman recipe is for the stomach and is prepared by simmering celery with its roots and porri capitati, which are leeks grown in such a way that they develop a large head, a cultivation technique still used at Anthimus’ time but lost in the following centuries. The celery is then mashed in the mortar with its cooking broth, then cooked again with the addition of garum, ground pepper and honey, then served with leeks.
The ingredients are very similar to those mentioned by Anthimus for the preparation of iuscellum, a term that can be translated as stew. In this case, the author recommends the use of porri capitati, celery root or fennel, and pennyroyal, which must be cooked with meat. In this passage, the author mentions cow meat, but this recipe may be adapted to prepare many different kinds of meat as we read in the following passages. Other ingredients recommended below are pepper, cloves, costus, and spicanardus, a variety of lavender, as well as wine, vinegar, and honey (added twice, and the second may be replaced with concentrated grape juice).
Following this list of ingredients and the two recipes from De Observatione Ciborum and De Re Coquinaria., we prepared a iuscellum simplex to enhance the flavor of celery root, using salt instead of garum and adding just pepper and cloves as spices. It is fascinating that, with small changes, we could prepare an authentic late medieval dish simply by replacing the salt with cured pork fatback (a change already recommended by Anthimus in another passage) and omitting honey. The further addition of cheese or eggs would make a dish very similar to many that we find in late-medieval sources, such as Anonimo Toscano’s Libro de la Cocina or Liber de Coquina.
To prepare this recipe, we used celeriac, but you may use celery stalks if you prefer. We substituted the pennyroyal with mint, which is in season in our garden, but other possible herbs are dill or cilantro, which Anthimus recommends as seasonings for any kind of dish.

If you want to know more about Anthimus, check out De Observatione Ciborum. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Franks. In the book, you find not only the translation of the text and a glossary, but also an introduction about the ingredients, methods, and cultural context that will help to recreate Anthimus’ recipes authentically. For more information about ancient food, we recommend reading Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources. In addition, on Patreon you find the translation of the first eight books of De Re Coquinaria and further translations of historical sources and articles about ancient and medieval recipes and dietetics.
If you are interested in late-medieval cooking, check out our books Libro de la Cocina. Medieval Tuscan Recipes Registrum and Coquine. A medieval cookbook.
For more historical recipes with herbs and vegetables, check out Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, which collects many recipes from the Antiquity to early Modern Era, accompanied by an introduction about vegetables in the history of Italian cooking in the cookbooks and their relationship with dietetic, philosophical, and religious practices.
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400 gr beef
spices (black pepper, cloves)

Chop the celeriac, leek and beef, then mince the mint. Cook the meat with a little water and two pinches of salt for about an hour, then add the leek, celery root and mint. Cook for another hour.
Grind the black pepper and cloves in a mortar, add to the stew with a bit of honey and vinegar and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Original text (De Re Coquinaria)
Apios virides cum suis radicibus lavabis et siccabis ad solem. Deinde albamen et capita porrorum simul elixabis in caccabo novo, ita ut aqua ad tertias deferveat, id est ut ex tribus eminis aquae una remaneat. Postea teres piper, liquamen et aliquantum mellis humore temperabis, et aquam apiorum decoctorum colabis in mortario, et superfundes apio. Cum simul ferbuerit, appones, et, si libitum fuerit, porros adicies.

Wash and dry fresh celery with roots in the sun. Then simmer the white part and the heads of the leeks in a new pot, until the water is reduced to the third part, which means that of three emina of water, one must remain. Then, grind the pepper and add garum and a little honey to balance the sauce. Pour the cooking broth of celery in the mortar and add the celery. As soon as it boils, serve and if you like, As soon as it is cooked, serve and if you like, As soon as it comes to the boil, serve and if you like, add the leek.

Original text (De Observatione Ciborum)
De carnibus vero vaccinis vaporatas factas et in se tinga coctas utendum etiam et in iuscello, ut prius expromatas una unda mittat, et sic in nitida aqua, quantum ratio poscit, coquantur, ut non addatur aqua, et cum cocta fuerit caro, mittis acetum acerrimum quantum media bucula, et mittis capita porrorum et puledium modicum, apii radicis vel finiculum, et coquat in una hora, et sic addis mel quantum medietatem de aceto vel quis dulcedinem habere voluerit, et sic coquat lento foco agetando ipsa olla frequenter manibus, et bene ius cum carne ipsa temperetur, et sic teri: piper grana L, costo et spicanardi per singula quantum medietatem solidi, et cariofili quantum pinsat tremissis. Ista omnia simul trita bene in mortario fictile addito vino modico, et cum bene tribulatum fuerit, mittis in olla et agetas bene ita, ut, antequam tollatur de foco, modicum sentiat et remittat in ius virtutem suam. Ubi tamen fuerit mel aut sapa vel carenum, unum de ipsis, sicut superius contenit, mittatur, et in bucculare non coquat, sed in olla fictile meliorem saporem facit.

Cow meat may be steamed and eaten, once cooked, dipped in its own juice, or stewed: [to stew it] first, place it, cleaned, in water, and it must be clean water, the necessary quantity. Cook it without further water and, when it is cooked, add very strong vinegar filling half the pot [bucculare], then leek heads, a bit of pennyroyal, and root of celery or fennel. Cook it for an hour. Then, add honey, half the quantity of vinegar, or depending on how much you want it sweet, and cook at low heat, shaking the pot with your hands frequently to mix well the sauce with the meat. Then, grind fifty grains of pepper, the quantity of costus and spicanardus corresponding to the half, and cloves as much as you reckon it is necessary. Pound these ingredients well in a clay mortar and add a bit of wine. When they are well ground, add them in the pot and stir well in such a way that, before it is removed from the fire, you feel a bit their taste and they release their properties into the sauce. Then, add honey, or sapa, or carenum, one of them, and the quantity depends on how much [the cooking vessel] can be filled, but do not cook them in the bucculare, since it [this dish] has a better flavor cooked in a clay pot [olla fictilis].

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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 – 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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