Archive for May, 2013

Memorial Day Venison Cookoff with Apicius Roman Sauce

Memorial Day at my house with a Venison cookoff. That's tagine under the lid. The roast was prepared with an authentic Roman recipe translated from the Apicius cookbook (3-4th century AD).

Memorial Day at my house with a Venison cookoff. That’s tajine under the lid. The roast was prepared from an authentic Roman recipe translated from the Apicius cookbook (3rd-4th century AD). The Romans used a conical ceramic cooker like the tajine dish of North Africa.

This is a meal Elektra could have eaten in Roman North Africa, only instead of venison, the host might have served a young Barbary stag or oryx. Of course, my guests would have been reclining on lounges and served by slaves. And the Zinfandel would have been watered.

The recipe for the sauce comes from one of the most famous cookbooks of antiquity. Today it is known simply as the Apicius.

There is disagreement about whether the famous epicure of the Tiberian reign (1st c AD) Marcus Gavius Apicius was the original collector or the inspiration. Most probably, he had nothing to do with the book, De re coquinaria “On the Subject of Cooking,” which eventually became known by his name.

Most scholars believe the collection of Roman cookery recipes was compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century. The language in which it was written is closer to Vulgar than Classical Latin.

An Apicius manuscript from 900 AD.

An Apicius manuscript from 900 AD. The codex was originally in the monastery of Fulda, Germany but acquired by The New York Academy of Medicine in 1929.

Venison tagine. Spices: Cumin, cardamon, cinnamon, clove, ginger, smoked paprika

Venison tagine. Spices: Cumin, cardamon, cinnamon, clove, ginger, smoked paprika, black pepper

A huge hunk of frozen venison turned out to be three roasts when defrosted. I marinated all three for 24 hours in red wine, fresh rosemary and cloves of garlic.

The smallest roast was cut into chunks for a tajine (see photos) with onions, fingerling potatoes, chunks of carrots, and tons of peas topped with baby bell peppers. Spicing: cumin, cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, clove, smoked paprika and fresh ground black pepper.

The middle-sized roast was coated in cajun spices and slow-cooked on the charcoal grill. Real charcoal please with mesquite chips! I served the Cajun venison with cherry sauce.

The large venison roast (see photo at top) was browned on all sides in olive oil and then put in a 350 oven with a few strips of bacon on top. Venison is very lean.

Now we come to the sauce from a recipe translated from the original Apicius. [Thank you to the food blog Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook]
I had to substitute a couple of herbs. And I used the reduced marinade for a base. I’m sure Apicius would have approved.

Ingredients for the sauce
note: all herbs are fresh, some from my own garden.
rue (I used fresh rosemary)
lovage (I used celery leaves)
oregano
mint
parsley
garlic
onion
Thai fish sauce (in place of Roman garum, the salty cured fish sauce Romans used with almost all meats and that they stole from the Greeks)
honey
sweet wine (I used Port)
salt and pepper

Not having a slave to grind the herbs into a paste, I threw them into a small food processor. You use the goodies from the bottom of the roasting pan to make a sauce much like gravies are made today. The end result should be something between a liquid and a syrup.

Salty and sweet with tons of herbs. That was the Roman taste. Also black pepper – lots of it. Even with syrupy pears.

Not sure if the Romans had cous cous, but they definitely had grain, so I suspect they might have discovered this primitive way of making pasta long before Marco Polo. I toasted slivered almonds and soaked giant raisins in brandy (until they are plump and soft) to put in the cooked cous cous.

In addition to remembering our own fallen heroes on a splendid Memorial Day, we stepped back a little further in history to remember the Romans. To borrow from the gladiators, “We who are about to eat, salute you!”

The table setting is my vision of Roman North Africa. Need to get some silver chalices!

May 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm 3 comments

Mother’s Day in the Lake of the Ozarks

My grandma's house today. No longer owned by the family, it's been allowed to decay. She built it herself from solid stone with help from my uncles & cousins in 1940.

My grandma’s house today. No longer owned by the family, it’s been allowed to decay. She built it herself from solid stone with help from my uncles & cousins in 1940. In the old days, she grew glorious roses and strawberries sweet as jam.

My grandma's house from the road. She'd get snowed in every winter and have her projects - weaving rugs, tooling leather, embroidering tapestries. I remember when she got running water, then a telephone and finally TV.

My grandma’s house from the road. She’d get snowed in every winter and have her projects – weaving rugs, tooling leather, embroidering tapestries. I remember when she got running water and indoor toilet, then a telephone and finally TV.

I took a hiatus from The Black Scroll to fly/drive to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri for Mother’s Day.
The Ozarks was the home of my Dad’s mother and many of my extended family. I used to spend the summers and school holidays there, roaming the woods, fishing and hunting with my cousins.

It was in the Ozarks that my imagination flourished. Lying on a warm boulder beside the lake on a hot summer day with dragonflies zooming round my ears, I’d imagine I was an Indian princess or a pioneer girl about to be kidnapped by a handsome brave.
Swinging in a hammock at my Aunt Jerry’s house, I devoured her romance novels with one man and two women – the angel and the not so angelic. Even then, I thought – why can’t a woman have two men?

My Dad and Mom. Ages 88 and 89. Married 66 years. On the deck of their house in the Lake of the Ozarks on Big Buffalo Creek. 47 miles to nearest Walmart & hospital. 20 miles to nearest town Cole Camp population 1200.

My Mom and Dad. Ages 88 and 89. Married 66 years. On the deck of their house in the Lake of the Ozarks on Big Buffalo Creek. 47 miles to nearest Walmart & hospital. 20 miles to nearest town Cole Camp, population 1200.

You have to cross four of these fords to get to my parent's place. If it rains hard, you wait til the water goes down. This is road WW. You get there first from B and then W.

You have to cross four of these fords to get to my parent’s place. If it rains hard, you wait til the water goes down. This is road WW. You get there first from B and then W. Those are paved roads. WW, the last 5 or so miles to my parents place, is dirt/gravel.

Entrance to the Eagle Club where we ate Mother's Day Breakfast prepared by the menfolk. Note warning, "No firearms allowed."

Entrance to the Eagle Club where we ate Mother’s Day Breakfast prepared by the menfolk. Note warning, “No firearms allowed.” But smoking was. No windows at all in the building. We gobbled down our scrambled eggs and sausage in a cloud of tobacco smoke.

Here's where my mom and I drank coffee in the mornings and had our bourbon in the evenings. That's the Big Buffalo Branch of the Lake of the Ozarks. My parents own all the land on this side of the water. Can't see the nearest neighbors.

Here’s where my mom and I drank coffee in the mornings and had our bourbon in the evenings. The strip of water you see in background is the Big Buffalo Branch of the Lake of the Ozarks. My parents own the land on this side of the water. One man owns all the land on the other. Can’t see the nearest neighbors.

My Dad, Chuck Gore, on his new toy. He has cleared about 5 acres of forest around the house just with a chain saw. All at age 80+

Here’s my Dad on his new toy. He has cleared about 5 acres of forest around the house just with a chain saw. Will be 90 years old October 2014!

Big Buffalo Creek as it narrows from the Lake. The water can rush over the concrete slab ford in heavy weather, washing pick up trucks downstream. Note how  clear the water is. You can drink it right from the creek. It's been naturally purified by the gravel bed.

Big Buffalo Creek as it narrows from the Lake. The water can rush over the concrete slab ford in heavy weather, washing pickup trucks downstream. Note the clear water naturally purified by the gravel bed.  You can drink right from the creek.

The roads never had names when I was a kid. About 10 years ago, streets signs appeared. This one is named for my family.

The roads never had names when I was a kid. About 10 years ago, streets signs appeared. This one is named for my family.

Buzzards perching in a tree looking for prey. Saw foxes, coyotes, deer, tortoises,  rabbits, raccoon, wild turkeys, ducks, geese and many other species of birds including cardinals, my favorite. Heard the whip-o-will and owls at night.

Buzzards looking for prey. I saw foxes, coyotes, deer, tortoises, rabbits, raccoon, wild turkeys, ducks, geese and many other species of birds including cardinals, my favorite. Heard the whip-o-will and owls at night.

My parent's house from the road. The hardtop iced over last winter, and they had no power for 2 days. This is called Gore Hill, BTW :)

My parent’s house from the road. The hardtop iced over last winter, and they had no power for 2 days. This is called Gore Hill, BTW 🙂

May 17, 2013 at 7:14 pm 10 comments


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