Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Taste of Rue

It's no secret that Kristin and I occasionally like to cook Ancient Roman food. Well, more accurately, Kristin likes to cook it, and I like to eat it (and support her habit).  We've also complained occasionally that it's hard to get certain ingredients. But Kristin has been growing both rue and pennyroyal this year (two of the hard to get, slightly poisonous Roman herbs), and she wanted to try at least one of them out.  So she took a recipe from Apicius and made it.

When I say Apicius, I'm talking about the ancient cookbook extant in the late Imperial period of Ancient Rome--not a modern cookbook which adapts the recipe, but a straight translation.  This is the first time we've done this--we've used adaptations of ancient recipes before, like Sally Grainger's or Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa's. Since the recipes are provided sans proportions, or much in the way of cooking instructions, it takes a skilled cook to translate the vague recipes into an actual meal prepared in a modern kitchen.  This time, Kristin was the one doing the cooking, using her best estimation of the amounts.  And since one of them was mildly poisonous, she was careful not to use too much (about a teaspoon).

Kristin will probably discuss the exact recipe on her blog. It was hardly a straight rue sauce: there was cumin, fennel seed, fish sauce, lovage, etc.  I liked it--it was certainly unique.  Rue is bitter, with hidden accents, but I'm not sure how to separate out the taste of rue from that of other herbs.  I think we should definitely try that sauce again, both with rue and with a substitue (we've used dandelion leaves before), and see how much of a difference it makes.

Update (8/31/2013): Kristin has written her own post on this subject, with the actual recipe she used.

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