Sunday, September 22, 2013

I'm hungry

Looks good, huh? It's lentil and root veg mash, that the Romans called ... um, lentil and rootvegmash.

In Rome there are still a few old fashioned (really old fashioned), usually family-owned restaurants that do traditional Roman style cooking. (One of the best ones is v. close to the Campo di Fiori, called Trattoria Der Pallaro, where there is no menu that you choose from, and the sign outside says "You will eat what we want to feed you".) The real Roman menu always has lentils, and they usually just bring it to you in a big bowl, cooked in olive oil, possibly chicken or meat broth and spices and sometimes onions. Often you can get this thing, lentils and salsiccia, which is sausages cooked with lentils.

I've got almost no food in the house. I'm trying this new thing of just buying food in little bits and eating only exactly what I buy, when I buy it. It's working out cheaper and I do a lot less grazing. But it does mean a lot of little trips to the shops. V. old fashioned. Italy still has a housewife-oriented domestic culture, and you are expected to shop early in the morning (ugh!) and often. Traditionally, Roman housewives shopped only for the day, and the idea of keeping food around was, until very recently, considered a sign of bad housekeeping skills. Laziness. Which, I suppose, is simply accurate.

Anyway, there is a cool 'blog out there, Pass the Garum, which I've been looking at for a while, that recreates ancient Roman recipes, mostly from Apicius. And today have decided to try one of their recipes. Lentil and root veg mash.

Apart from all the things we would consider normal in kitchenware, fry pans, soup and stew pots, Dutch ovens, etc, the Romans used one item in the kitchen probably more than any other: a mortar and pestle. You see them in the museums a lot. They used a lot of pastes, ground-together veg and herbs to make sauces. I've got a little brass one that I use just for quick crushing of peppercorns and nutmeg and things, but is too small to use for making sauces, or making my own curry past (which I've always wanted to try). I found a beautiful one at an antique stall in S. Mar during the beach season this year, but the guy wanted 50 Euros. It was bronze, which I admit, was fairly cool. But still! fifty smackers! I'll keep my eyes open.

The other thing you really need to reproduce Roman cooking is Garum and liquamen. The first is a condiment, Roman ketchup, that is added to the food later by the diner. It was very expensive in Roman times, (though the price varied with the quality) and would be considered pretty gross by today's standards. It was made by fermenting fish blood and guts. You can get a modern equivalent of Garum in Italy, but it's hard to find, and pricey.

Liquamen is another kind of fish sauce that is much easier to get, and is more or less exactly the same as Thai fish sauce that you can buy in a lot of supermarkets, and is even available here if you know where the Chinese supermarkets are in Rome (near Termini train station).

Anyway, it's 3:30 and I've done exactly nowt with myself today, so I'm going out to the only shop open in S. Mar on Sundays, the Elite supermarket near the marina, and I'm gonna get me the stuff to make some Roman food. We'll see what kind of root veg they've got in and buy a big bag o' lentils.

I might even try making the spelt-based Lagana, a Roman flatbread that has no gluten, if I can find the spelt flour.


1 comment:

Teresa B. said...

You've made me hungry for a KitKat.