The Hungry Historians first met when working in the deep, dark recesses of our local authority’s HR department where we bonded over our mutual frustration at our jobs, but more importantly, our backgrounds in Classics and obsession with food. When you meet someone who shares the same off-beat, niche and plain bizarre interests as you, you know its the start of something good, but when that person turns out to be as gastro-centric and generally hungry as you are, you know it’s the beginning of truly glorious gastronomic adventures.
Divided by Carmen’s desire to run away to Greece to study a Masters degree, we have taken to the internet to maintain our constant stream of discussion regarding buying food, cooking food, eating food and, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch. We thought it would be a good experiment to unite our shared interests (ok, perhaps not Cumberbatch) to both create an ancient dish in our very different kitchens, seeing how we could each cope with finding the same ingredients and how we would each interpret the recipe. Here is the first of many…
This recipe is basked on the one from Sally Grainger’s book Cooking Apicius (which will certainly be making future appearances), with some of our own additions and variations.
Aliter dulcia. ‘Another Sweet’
Take a preparation similar to the above and in the hot water bath or double boiler make a very hard porridge of it. Thereupon spread it out on a pan and when cool cut it into handy pieces like small cookies. Fry these in the best oil, take them out, dip into hot honey, sprinkle with pepper and serve.
– Apicius 7.11.6
400ml goats’ milk
2 tbsp olive oil
100g plain white flour
100g wholemeal flour (sieved)
250ml olive oil for frying
100g runny honey
black pepper to serve
- Put the milk and olive oil into a pan to heat
- Once warm, add the flour, beating with a whisk until it comes together in a solid mass
- Turn out onto a plate and allow to cool completely
- Once cooled, roll dough into cylinder shapes or small balls (they will need to cook for longer if the latter)
- Heat the olive oil for frying in a pan and test the right temperature for frying with a single fritter – when it turns golden brown, the oil is ready
- Fry the fritters in batches until golden brown, then drain on kitchen paper
- Place in a bowl and stir in the honey, ensuring each is covered, season with black pepper and serve warm
Despite vaguely resembling fried worms, these were surprisingly tasty! Once they’d cooled, I found them a little less appetizing, as they become more noticeably dense and heavy, but fresh and crispy from frying and smothered in honey they had a very moreish quality.
The obvious difference between my worm-like fritters and Carmen’s meat-ballesque ones is the shape, I just couldn’t get them to fry properly as dough balls and had to roll them out to get them cooking evenly. Slightly envious of Carmen’s non-worm looking fritters, no matter how much they remind her of Ikea meatballs!
The fantastic thing about having Mim make this recipe first was the great tips she was able to give me about the cooking times, ideal consistency etc. The downside of that was that when my fritters looked nothing like the mixture she had described making I found my ugly-looking ‘Ikea meatballs’ rather funny. Luckily the finished article didn’t taste like a plate of low-cost meatballs*, but instead were pleasantly dense and sweet. They also didn’t remind me of loukoumades as much as I thought they would, which are a lot lighter but also as a result soak up a lot more oil and are greasier, which can sometimes be a bit unpleasant. Contrasting to Mim, I preferred the fritters cold the next day, with a bit more honey drizzled on them. υπέροχος!
*I do love Ikea meatballs, but there’s a time and a place for that, and both of these are whilst shopping at Ikea, not making ancient sweets