I’ve always been interested foods from the past and have had a couple of books on the subject since my late teenage years, yet never really made much from them. I’m fascinated by what folk ate back in the Middle Ages and their heavy use of spices and ingredients considered valuable and precious; much of which we take for granted today.
Here’s a blast from the past. And I really mean the past. Let’s say somewhere between 500 BC and 400 AD.
Aliter dulcia is a traditional dish that was made back in the Roman Empire, and as research has revealed, there are a few variations to the recipe. This is a sweet dish that was either baked as a dense, nutty cake or shaped into balls and steamed or boiled before being drenched in honey and sprinkled with nuts and black pepper.
The original recipe calls for the use of rue, a herb that grows around the Mediterranean and southwest Asia. Knowing that rue isn’t available at any of my nearby markets, I used endive, a herb not all that difficult to find. I grated the zest of an orange over the cake for a bit of oomph, which I found nice with the predominant flavours of pinenuts and honey. Another one of my additions was a sprinkle of chopped pistachios for extra crunch.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20 cm cake tin.
Mix together the almond meal, ground pinenuts, pepper, honey, rue, passum, milk and eggs to form a batter.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden and cooked all the way through. Allow to cool slightly in the tin before removing and drizzling with honey. Garnish with nuts, pepper and orange zest.
Alternatively the mixture can be formed into small balls and steamed or boiled (about 20 mins) before garnishing with honey, pepper and nuts.