Eating Rome: Apicius' Festive Pickle
We’re at a period when people are feasting, which means two things:
Decadent, bold flavours and a truckload of leftovers.
This Roman recipe is perfect for Boxing Day, when everyone is dreading another year of turkey curry. If, like me, you eat your weight in chutney and piccalilli through the festive period, this recipe is for you.
It’s a simple sauce that requires only a small pan and a blender and comes together in ten minutes. Because let’s face it, by the 26th we’ve already cooked a LOT. This can also be made in advance and keeps in the fridge for at least a week in a tightly sealed container. Makes enough to fill a jam jar.
Here’s what you’ll need, according to Apicius:
2 tsp caraway seeds
50g of pine nuts
1 tsp fresh dill
½ tsp oregano
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp garum
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp date molasses
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Cracked black pepper (to taste)
Here’s some handy substitutions:
Caraway seeds can be found in most large supermarkets, but fennel seeds will do in a pinch.
Most people usually have some nuts hanging around at Christmas, so you can absolutely swap out pine nuts for unsalted cashews, hazelnuts, almonds or macadamia nuts. Just soak them for 5 minutes in boiling water to soften.
You can use dried dill, just use ⅔ of the amount. Can’t find dill for love nor money? Try tarragon.
I used apple cider vinegar because that’s what I had. Still epic.
For garum, use the equivalent amount of thai fish sauce, 1 tinned anchovy or a tsp of anchovy paste. This is your seasoning as there is no salt. If you’re a wimp, use a generous pinch of salt. Don’t be a wimp, trust me.
Any fruity molasses will be delicious, pomegranate molasses in particular would be lovely. Alternatively use 1 pitted date or 8 or so raisins, just make sure to blitz them to oblivion.
This recipe could not be simpler. It has 4 steps.
Toast your seeds and nuts in a small heavy pan until the seeds become fragrant and the nuts start to brown.
Bung them in the blender with literally everything else.
Whizz until smooth.
The result is a gloopy, sticky bowl of sweet, sour and spicy goodness. This packs a PUNCH. The star is the caraway, which is well worth seeking out. If you think the consistency is too loose, add more nuts and blend again, because this should be a thick sauce.
The Romans loved a meal of leftover cold cuts just as much as we do now, and this sauce was noted by Apicius to be good for leftover pork.
But I’ve made this a few times and it really goes well with most leftover meats. Drizzle it on ham, goose, duck, turkey and chicken (particularly the dark meat,) or even leftover roast potatoes. You can decide whether to warm them up first or not.
It will also work as a glaze for roasted parsnips and carrots, just brush on 5-10 minutes before they’re done cooking, otherwise the sugars in the honey and molasses will burn.
I’ve also enjoyed the sauce as a dip for a ploughman's lunch, where it pairs beautifully with mature cheddar, pâté, pork pies and green apple. Alternatively if you have a festive buffet, this would be amazing with a pile of crudités.
In short, use it wherever you’d consider chutney or curry sauce for a spicy, warming flavour.
The flavours, quick preparation and versatile uses of this sauce make it a great addition to your festive menu. Because who needs another bowl of curried turkey?
Try it, let us know what you think, and happy holidays!