Tyropatina – Ancient Roman Pudding


In the 7th book of De Re Coquinaria, we find an interesting series of recipes for dulcia domestica, which we translate as homemade sweets. These dishes are quick and easy to prepare, and probably, they are called domestica in contrast with other kinds of sweets made by a specialized baker called pistor dulciarius by Martial, a role completely different from the cocus’, the Roman cook.
Among the sweets made by the pistores, we find placentae, crustuli, coptoplacentae (mentioned by Petronius and Vespa in his poem Iudicium coci et pistoris iudice Vulcano), mustacia (which, interestingly, are used as ingredients in some recipes of De Re Coquinaria, meaning that they were bought already prepared and not directly made by the cook), scriblitae and others. Sweets like libum or savillum must be considered kinds of placentae, being listed in this way by Chrysippus of Tyana in a passage reported in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists. Essentially, most recipes reported in Cato’s De Agri Cultura are for sweets prepared by pistores, whereas the ones in De Re Coquinaria were made by cooks.
There are various kinds of dulcia domestica, for instance stuffed dates, fritters, ova spongia, generally characterized by the use of a few, selected ingredients such as honey, eggs, milk, pepper, olive oil, or nuts. In Cato’s sweets, instead, we also find poppy seeds and lard, but one of the most significant ingredients is cheese, very rare in De Re Coquinaria and common in ancient Greek cuisine.
The recipe we are preparing today is called tyropatina in the text, a word composed of a Greek term, tyros, which means cheese, and patina, which refers to a cooking pan or a plate and to the dish made in that patina.
Many patinae that we find in De Re Coquinaria are frittatas, but not only, for instance a salad with peaches and cumin sauce that we prepared in the past. In this case, by mixing the ingredients in the way recommended by the author, we obtain a pudding. The text, indeed, suggests using three eggs for a hemina (about a quarter of a liter) of milk and five eggs for a sextarium (about half a liter), adapting the quantities to the size of our cooking pan, which suggests that there are different sizes of patinae.
The reason why it is called tyropatina despite the absence of cheese is probably that the author writes to mix honey to the milk quasi ad lactantia, which means that the outcome must be similar to the one we obtain when we prepare cheese.
The quantity of honey is up to your taste: we used two tablespoons for three eggs. To obtain a homogeneous texture, we recommend passing the mixture of milk, eggs, and honey through a sieve before cooking it. We used black pepper, but white pepper is a good alternative.
Use either a baking pan (as intended by the author) or small molds to make one-serving puddings to your taste.

For more information about ancient cuisine, we suggest reading our book Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources. Moreover, the complete translation of De Re Coquinaria is available on Patreon, in addition to further translations of ancient and medieval sources.
To know more about the passage between ancient and medieval cooking, check out our translation, commentary, and glossary of a beautiful 6th-century source, De Observatione Ciborum, written by the physician Anthimus to the king of the Franks Theuderic; if you are interested in late-medieval cuisine, we recommend Libro de la Cocina. Medieval Tuscan Recipes and Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook.
If you are interested in vegetables in historical cuisine, read Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers available in English and Italian, with recipes from the Antiquity to early Modern Era.
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¼ liter milk
3 eggs
2 tablespoons honey
black pepper

Mix the honey and milk, then add three beaten eggs. Stir until you obtain a homogeneous mixture. Pour it in a pan, slightly oiled, and cook it at low heat for about 20 minutes. Serve with ground pepper on top.

Original text
Accipies lac, quod adversus patinam aestimabis, temperabis lac cum melle quasi ad lactantia, ova quinque ad sextarium mittis, si ad heminam, ova tria. In lacte dissolvis ita ut unum corpus facias, in Cumana colas et igni lento coques. Cum duxerit ad se, piper aspargis et inferes.

Take milk, the quantity you deem fit for your pan. Mix the milk with honey as to make cheese, five eggs for one sextarium of milk or three for one hemina. Mix them well with the milk. Pour in a pan and cook at low heat. When it thickens, dust with pepper and serve.

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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
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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