The Thermopolium
Avrelia's (Jill Hatch) Roman Recipes


My name is Avrelia and myself and my husband, Gnaeus, run the local thermopolium. That's the fast food restaurant here in the vicus. Gnaeus has left the legion's now and having taken the Emperor's reward has bought the thermopolium. My father thought Gnaeus was good husband material even though he is a little older than myself, because he has money, a good business and he has the makings of a good husband. Unlike a lot of local girls, my father made me wait until Gnaeus had left the legions before marrying him so that our marriage would be recognised under Roman law.

The thermopolium is in much demand by the local soldiers, I suppose we offer them a taste of home cooking like mother used to make. We supply all kinds of fast food to the soldiers, who after pay day have money in their pockets and are looking for a night out. We do try to ring the changes though. Some days its more difficult than others, we are very dependent on what's available in the local market. Usually however, we have a choice of two meats, two or three vegetable dishes, cheeses, fruit and for those people who do not partake in meat there is always a non-meat option. We find though that the soldiers much prefer things like tomaculum (sausages) and isica (chopped meat, beef burgers). We are often asked to provide the food for feasts, such as weddings. This was a lot of work as there were 3 courses all of which had at least 4 different dishes in them, but it was fun.

Garlic Cheese

4 oz Parmesan Cheese
1 bulb of garlic
handful of fresh coriander and lovage*
olive oil
white wine vinegar

Grate the cheese, if possible use a moratorium (a roman mortar) this gives a much better texture, if not use a regular cheese grater. Peel and crush the garlic bulb. Mix garlic and cheese together adding the fresh herbs as you mix. Bind into a ball with the oil and vinegar. Serve with fresh bread.



Roman Pork and Leek Sausages

1lb minced pork
1 leek (white part only)
2 gloves garlic
mixture of sage, lovage*
(about 2 teaspoons of each)
½ cup of red wine
1 tsp fish sauce**

sausage skins (if available) soaked in cold water for 20 minutes.
If stuffing by hand it is better to get the largest skins you can find.
wholemeal flour for dusting.

Chop the leek finely, and fry in a little olive oil until soft. Mix with the pork mince. Add the herbs and bind with wine and fish sauce. If the mixture is very wet, then mix in flour. If using the skins now comes the fun part. Keeping the skins wet proceed to stuff. When you have a large tube of sausage, using your hand as a measure, twist the tube into sausages. I use the width of my hand for each sausage. Fry in a little oil until golden brown. If you have an open fire or are quite happy to keep a BBQ going in the garden for a couple of hours, these sausages do benefit from smoking first. Just tie them up in the smoke. If you can't get hold of skins, just fry them off as burgers.


Roman Beef burgers

1lb minced beef.
1 - 2 tsp mustard.
(Whole grain if possible)
1tsp fish sauce**
1tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp juniper berries.
Handful of fresh coriander
2 oz pine kernels

Crush the pine kernels, using a rolling pin, mix all the ingredients together. Shape into burgers and fry in olive oil. The more pepper and mustard you use the more authentic the end result will be. The Romans loved their food well seasoned. Remember these are the people who gave us a chicken cooked with 6 grams of pepper!


Lamb in a Hot Sauce

1½lbs of lean lamb cubed
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds
A pinch of pepper, lovage*, cumin
1 tsp fish sauce**
1 tbls olive oil
1cup wine
1 tbls corn flour.

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan. Toss the meat in and cook until brown. Pound the onions, coriander seed, pepper, lovage and cumin. Mix with the fish sauce, olive oil and wine. Pour over the meat and simmer gently for about 1½ hours. Mix the corn flour with a little water and use to thicken the stew. Stir until boiling. Serve hot.


Vitellius Peas

1½ lb dried peas, soaked over night.
A pinch of pepper, lovage, ginger
Yolks of 2 hard boiled eggs
3 tbls clear honey
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbls wine
1 tbls white wine vinegar
1 tbls olive oil.

Boil the peas gently until soft. Stir to make a smooth mixture. Pound the lovage, pepper and ginger in a mortar, mix with the egg yolks, homey, fish sauce, wine and vinegar. Put the pounded sauce in a pan, add the olive oil and bring to the boil. Add the peas, stir and heat through.


Green Beans in Cumin

1lb green beans
1 tsp olive oil
2tsp ground cumin
½tsp honey.

Top and tail the beans and boil in salted water until soft. Drain and return to the pan. Add the honey, cumin and olive oil, mix well. The beans can be served hot or cold.


Cheese Cake

4 oz plain flour
8 oz Ricotta cheese
1 egg beaten
Bay leaves
4½ oz honey

Pre heat the oven to 220 º c. Sift the flour into a bowl. Beat the cheese until it is soft and mix in the egg. Mix the cheese and egg mixture into the bow. Mould into a bun shape and place on a greased baking try with a fresh bay leaf underneath. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. To serve pour over warmed honey.
This can also be made as a savoury cheesecake by using feta cheese (1lb should be sufficient) and omitting the honey glaze.



Honey Mushrooms

Oh how I laughed!
Olive oil
Fish sauce
Honey(funny that)
Corriander, parsley

Chop the mushrooms, hack them, destroy them, wring their little necks. God how I hate honey mushrooms! I can't even begin to tell you. Anyway, heat oil, honey and fish sauce. Throw in the wretched mushroom and leave them to die. Let the whole mess cook down. It will take a while!


  * If you can not get hold of lovage (it can be bought as lovage seeds from Indian Supermarkets), then use
  celery  leaves finely chopped.

** The best fish sauce to use is the Vietnamese fish sauce which is readily available in Supermarkets.
     Do not try using Anchovy Essence, as this leaves a fishy taste.

    None of the above ingredients are set in stone.
    You will not evoke the wrath of the Gods if you change them, add more or less.

                            It's all to do with your own taste! So enjoy and experiment, it's what I did!

Jill Hatch 2005