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Classics Kitchen: Moretum, Roman Garlic Cheese Spread

3 Comments

Today has been a cooking frenzy/ baking marathon in preparation for our Classics Kitchen pop-up tomorrow at the Experiencing Ancient Education event run by Reading University as part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities, where we’ll be giving food demos, sharing ancient recipes and providing Roman food. Recipes for all the food we will be serving (and many more!) can be found in our recipe book – from savoury dishes including Roman-style pesto, olive relish and fish sauce to sweet treats including fig and wine cake and itrion (sesame biscuits).IMG_6331

Now for one final recipe before the big event…

This recipe is taken from a poem in hexameter (probably wrongly) attributed to Virgil, describing Simylus, a humble farmer, preparing a meal for himself before going out to plough his fields. First he picks the garlic, celery, rue and coriander from his garden and combines them with a hard cheese, olive oil and vinegar, which he then eats with a loaf of freshly baked bread made by his slave.

First, lightly digging into the ground with his fingers, he pulls up four heads of garlic with their thick leaves; then he picks slim celery tops and sturdy rue and the thin stems of trembling coriander. With these collected he sits before the fire and sends the slave girl for a mortar. He seasons with grains of salt and after the salt, hard cheese is added; then he mixes in the herbs. With the pestle in his right works at the fiery garlic, then he crushes all alike in a mixture. His hand circles. Gradually the ingredients lose theior individuality; out of the many colours emerges one – neither whole green (for the white tempers it), nor shining white ( since tinted by so many herbs). The work goes on: not jerkily, as before, but more heavily the pestle makes its slow circuits. So he sprinkles in some drops of Athena’s olive oil and adds a little sharp vinegar and agains works the mixture together. Then at length he runs two fingers round the mortar, gathering the whole mixture into a ball, so as to produce the form and name of a finished moretum.

– Appendix Vergiliana 2.4

Moretum IngredientsIngredients

3 garlic cloves
1tsp celery
1 tsp coriander
1tsp salt
100g pecorino/ parmesan
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil

Method

  • Chop the garlic, celery and coriander and grate the pecorino
  • Add all the ingredients to a food processor
  • Purée until you have a smooth consistency
  • Spread on fresh bread to serve (I recommend ciabatta!)

There are obvious similarities with this and the Roman Pesto I made recently, taken from Columella and De Re Rustica (book 11) contains other recipes for moretum also very similar to this one.

Moretum

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3 thoughts on “Classics Kitchen: Moretum, Roman Garlic Cheese Spread

  1. Fantastic! I would love to do a pop up event here in York, maybe during one of the festivals. I am only just discovering the depth of Classics cookery – where do I get hold of a copy of your book?

    • We don’t have a book (yet!) but we’ve developed a number of recipes found in Apicius and Cato, so there’s a good place to start. Also Mark Grant’s Roman Cookery is great for tried and tested recipes. Best of luck!

  2. Great thanks! I am trying to expand my understanding with the Classics and early Britain as most of my knowledge lies from the Middle Ages to Tudor diet. So exciting to find others who are equally fascinated with the food of our past.

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