Friday, 1 September 2017


“If you’re not the one cooking, stay out of the way and compliment the chef.” - Michael Strahan 

Apicius is a collection of Roman cookery recipes, usually thought to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century AD and written in a language that is in many ways closer to Vulgar than to Classical Latin; later recipes using Vulgar Latin (such as ficatum, bullire) were added to earlier recipes using Classical Latin (such as iecur, fervere).

The name “Apicius” had long been associated with excessively refined love of food, from the habits of an early bearer of the name, Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet and lover of refined luxury, who lived sometime in the 1st century AD during the reign of Tiberius. He is sometimes erroneously asserted to be the author of the book that is pseudepigraphically attributed to him.

Apicius is a text to be used in the kitchen. In the earliest printed editions, it was usually called De Re Coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking), and attributed to an otherwise unknown Caelius Apicius, an invention based on the fact that one of the two manuscripts is headed with the words “API CAE” or rather because there are a few recipes attributed to Apicius in the text: Patinam Apicianam sic facies (IV, 14) Ofellas Apicianas (VII, 2). This ancient cookbook is also known as De Re Culinaria. This can be found in its entirety in an English translation here.

Here is a sweetmeat recipe from Apicius, given a modern interpretation. Apicius qualifies these as Dulcia Domestica, or “home-made sweets” to distinguish them from the sweetmeats one bought from the numerous confectioners that could be found easily in any ancient Roman city. 

Home-Made Sweets

30 large, sweet dates, pitted
35 g walnuts
35 g pine nuts
freshly ground pepper
a little fine salt
6 tbsp honey
Mascarpone cheese
Ground pistachio for garnishing 

Crush finely the nuts separately, and mix the walnuts with a little ground pepper, while lightly salting the pine nuts. Slit the dates to form a pocket and fill half of them with pine nuts, and the other half with walnuts. Tie the dates securely with kitchen string so that the stuffing does not fall out.
Heat the honey in a pan, add the dates, and cook gently for a few minutes until the honey has saturated the dates and they are heated right through. Allow to cool. Carefully remove the string from the dates, pipe with softened mascarpone cheese and sprinkle with some crushed pistachio nuts for garnishing.

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