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This webpage reproduces a Book of the
De Re Coquinaria


published by Walter M. Hill, 1936

The text is in the public domain.

This text has not yet been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
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Book X

De Re Coquinaria

 p209  Book IX. Seafood
Liber IX. Thalassa

Chap. I Shellfish.
Chap. II Ray.
Chap. III Calamary.
Chap. IV Cuttlefish.
Chap. V Polypus.
Chap. VI Oysters.
Chap. VII All Kinds of Bivalves.
Chap. VIII Sea Urchin.
Chap. IX Mussels.
Chap. X Sardines.
Chap. XI Fish Sauces.
Chap. XII Baian Seafood Stew.

 p210  I
In locusta

397 Sauce for Shellfish
Ius in locusta et cappari​1

Chopped scallions fried lightly, crush pepper, lovage, caraway, cumin, figdates, honey, vinegar, wine, broth, oil, reduced must; while boiling add mustard.

1 locusta, spiny lobster; Fr. langouste; G.‑V. capparus; not clear. (cammarus, a crab); List. carabuslong-tailed lobster or crab, the cancer cursor of Linnaeus, according to Beckmann; mentioned by Plinius.

 p210  398 Broiled Lobster
Locustas assas

Makes thus if broiled, they should appear in their shell; which is opened by splitting the live lobster in two season with pepper sauce and coriander sauce moisten with oil and broil them on the grill. When they are dry​1 keep on basting them more and more with oil or butter until they are properly broiled.​2

1 i.e. when the soft jelly-like meat has congealed.

2 Same procedure as today.

399 Boiled Lobster with Cumin Sauce​1
Locustam elixam cum cuminato

Real boiled lobster is cooked with cumin sauce essence and, by right, throw in some whole2 pepper, lovage, parsley, dry mint, a little more whole cumin, honey, vinegar, broth, and, if you like, add some bay leaves and malobathron.​3

1 Cumin, mustard and other spices similar to the above are used for cooking crawfish today.

2 Sentence ex Tor. wanting in other texts.

3 Malabathrum, aromatic leaves of an Indian tree; according to Plinius the laurus cassia — wild cinnamon.

400 Another Lobster Dish — Mince of the Tail Meat
Aliter locustam — isicia de cauda eius sic facies

Have leaves ready in which to wrap the mince croquettes boil the lobster take the cluster of spawn from under the female's tail, and the coral of the male thereupon cut fine the boiled meat of the tail, and with broth and pepper and the eggs make the croquettes and fry.

It is understood that hen eggs are added to bind the mince.

401 Boiled Lobster
In locusta elixa

Pepper, cumin, rue, honey, vinegar, broth and oil.

1 Tor. rectè adhibemus, sentence not in the other texts.

402 Another Lobster Preparation
Aliter in locusta

For lobster let us properly employ​1 pepper, lovage,  p211 cumin, mint, rue, nuts, honey, vinegar, broth, and wine.

Ray, Skate
In torpedine

403 A Sauce for Ray
In torpedine

Crush pepper, rue, shallots, adding honey, broth, raisin wine, a little wine, also a few drops of oil; when it commences to boil, bind with roux.

1 torpedo; the raia torpedo of Linnaeus; a ray or skate.

404 Boiled Ray
In torpedine elixa

Pepper, lovage, parsley, mint, origany, yolks of egg, honey, broth, raisin wine, wine, and oil. If you wish, add mustard and vinegar, or, if desired richer, add raisins.

This appears to be a sauce to be poured over the boiled ray.

Today the ray is boiled in water seasoned strongly and with similar ingredients. When done, the fish is allowed to cool in this water; the edible parts are then removed, the water drained from the meat, which is tossed in sizzling brown butter with lemon juice, vinegar and capers. this is raie au beurre noir, much esteemed on the French seaboards.

In loligine​1

405 Calamary in the Pan
In loligine in patina

Crush pepper, rue, a little honey, broth, reduced wine, and oil to taste. When commencing to boil, bind with roux.

1 Calamary, ink-fish, cuttlefish. Cf. Chap. IV G.‑V. Lolligine.

405a Stuffed Calamary​1
In loligine farsili

Pepper, lovage, coriander, celery seed, yolks, honey, vinegar, broth, wine, oil, and bind.​2

1 Ex List., Sch., and G.‑V. Evidently a sauce or dressing. The formula for the forcemeat of the fish is not given here but is found in ℞ No. 406 — stuffed Sepia, a fish akin to the calamary.

 p212  IV
Sepia, Cuttlefish
In sepiis

406 Stuffed Sepia
In sepia farsili

Pepper, lovage, celery seed, caraway, honey, broth, wine, basic condiments​1 Heat in water throw in the cuttlefish; when done split, then stuff the cuttlefish​2 with the following forcemeat: boiled brains, the strings and skin removed, pound with pepper, mix in raw eggs until it is plenty. Whole pepper to be added. Tie the filled dish into little bundles of linen and immerse in the boiling stock pot until the forcemeat is properly cooked.

1 Condimenta coctiva — salt, herbs, roots.

2 G.‑V. treat this as a separate formula.

407 Boiled Cuttlefish​1
Sepias elixas ab aheno​2

Are placed in a copper kettle with cold water and pepper, laser, broth, nuts, eggs, and any other seasoning you may wish.

1 List. connects this article with the foregoing.

2 Tor. aheno for copper kettle; List. amylo.

408 Another Way to Cook Cuttlefish
Aliter sepias

Pepper, lovage, cumin, green coriander, dry mint, yolks, honey, broth, wine, vinegar, and a little oil. When boiling bind with roux.

In polypo

409 Polypus
In polypo

Cook with pepper, lovage, broth, laser, ginger​1 and serve.

1 The polypus, or eight-armed sepia, has been described by Plinius, Galen, Cicero, Diocles, Athenaeus and other ancient writers. The ancients praise it as a food and attribute to the polypus the power of restoring lost vitality; molli carne pisces, & suaves gustu sunt, & ad venerem conferunt — Diocles.

Wanting in the Vat. MS.

2 Wanting in List. and G.‑V. Ex Tor. p100.

 p213  VI
In ostreiis

410 Oysters​1
In ostreis

To oysters which want to be well seasoned add​2 pepper, lovage, yolks, vinegar, broth, oil, and wine; if you wish also add honey.​3

1 Wanting in the Vat. MS.

2 Tor. sentence wanting in the other texts

3 Cf. No. 15 for the keeping of oysters. It is not likely that the oysters brought from Great Britain to Rome were in a condition to be enjoyed from the shell — raw.

The above formula appears to be a sort of oyster stew.

All Kinds of Bivalves
In omne genus conchyliorum

411 All Kinds of Bivalves
In omne genus conchyliorum​1

For all kinds of shellfish use pepper, lovage, parsley, dry mint, a little more of cumin, honey, and broth; if you wish, add bay leaves and malobathron.​2

1 Wanting in the Vat. MS.

2 Cf. note to ℞ No. 399.

The shellfish is cooked or steamed with the above ingredients.

Sea Urchins
In echino

412 Sea Urchin
In echino

To prepare sea urchin take a new earthen pot, a little oil, broth, sweet wine, ground pepper, and set it to heat; when boiling put the urchins in singly. Shake them well, let them stew, and when done sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Plinius states that only a few small parts of the sea urchin are edible.

413 Another Method
Aliter in echino

Pepper, a little costmary, dry mint, mead, broth, Indian spikenard, and bay or nard leaves.

414 Plain Boiled

Put the sea urchins singly in boiling water, cook, retire, and place on a platter.

415 In Chafing Dish
In thermospodio​1

To the meat of sea urchins, cooked as above, add a sauce made of bay leaves, pepper, honey, broth, a little oil, bind with eggs in the hot water bath​2 Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

1 This formula is combined with the preceding in the original.

2 Thermospodium; in this respect resembling seafood à la Newburgh. The thermospodium is an elaborate food and drink heater, used both in the kitchen and in the dining room. Our drawing illustrates an elaborate specimen which was used to prepare dishes such as this one in front of the guests.

416 Salt Sea Urchin
In echino salso

The cooked meat of salt sea urchin is served up with the best fish broth, reduced wine and pepper to taste.

Undoubtedly a commercial article like crabmeat today. The sea urchins were cooked at the fisheries, pickled, shells, refuse discarded, the meat salted and marketed. The fish was also salted in the shell as seen in the following:

417 Another Way

Take salt sea urchins, add the best broth and treat them in a manner as to look like fresh that have just come out of the water.

In mitulis

418 Mussels
In mitulis

Best​1 broth, finely cut leeks, cumin, raisin wine, must​2 and add water to make a mixture in which to cook the mussels.

1 Variously spelled Mytilus, Mitylus, mutulus, an edible mussel.

Tor. and List. merula, merling, whiting, Fr. merlan. Merula also is a blackbird, which is out of place here. The Vat. MS. reads in metulis.

2 Tor.

3 Tor. vinum mustum; List. v. mixtum.

 p215  X
Sardines, Baby Tunny, Mullet
In sarda1 cordula2 mugile3

419 Stuffed Sardine
Sardam farsilem

Properly, ought to be treated in this manner: the sardine is boned and filled with crushed flea-bane, several grains of pepper, mint, nuts, diluted with honey, tied or sewed, wrapped in parchment and placed in a flat dish above the steam rising from the stove; season with oil, reduced must and origany.​1

1 The freshly caught sardine.

2 Cordyla, cordilla, the young or the fry of tunny.

3 Mugil, sea-mullet.

1 Tor. origany; List. alece, with brine.

420 Another Preparation of Sardines
Sarda ita fit

Cook and bone the sardines; fill with crushed pepper, lovage, thyme, origany, rue, moistened with date wine, honey; place on a dish, garnish with cut hard eggs. Pour over a little wine, vinegar, reduced must, and virgin oil.

421 Sauce for Sardines
Ius in sarda

Pepper, origany, mint, onions, a little vinegar, and oil.

Resembling our vinaigrette.

422 Another Sauce for Sardines​1
Ius aliud in sarda

Pepper, lovage, dry mint,2 cooked, onion chopped, honey, vinegar, dilute with oil, sprinkle with chopped hard eggs.

1 Another Vinaigrette.

2 Tac. and Tor. mentam aridam coctam, dry mint cooked, which is reasonable, to soften it. Hum., G.‑V. dry mint, cooked onion; there is no necessity to cook the onion. As a matter of fact, it should be chopped raw in this dressing. The onion is wanting in Tac. and Tor.

423 Sauce for Broiled Baby Tunny
Ius in cordula assa

Pepper, lovage, celery seed, mint, rue, figdate or its wine honey, vinegar, wine. Also suitable for sardines.

424 Sauce for Salt Sea-mullet
Aliter ius in mugile salso

Pepper, lovage, cumin, onion, mint, rue, sage,​1 date wine, honey, vinegar, mustard and oil.

1 Tor. calva; G.‑V. calvam. Does not exist. Hum. calva legendum puto salvia.

425 Another Sauce for Salt Sea-mullet
Aliter ius in mugile salso

Pepper, origany, rocket, mint, rue, sage,​1 date wine, honey, oil, vinegar and mustard.

1 Same as above.


426 Sauce for Catfish, Baby Tunny and Tunny
Ius in siluro​1 in pelamyde​2 et in thynno​3

To make them more tasty use​4 pepper, lovage, cumin, onions, mint, rue, sage,​5 date wine, honey, vinegar, mustard and oil.

* The twelve chapters of Book IX, as shown in the beginning of the text are here increased to fourteen by G.‑V., to wit, XII, Ius in mullo taricho and XIII, salsum sine salso, but these are more properly included in the above chapter XI, as does Tor. All of the above fish were salt, and probably were important commercial articles. The silurus, for instance, is best in the river Danube in the Balkans, while the red mullet, as seen in ℞ No. 427 came from the sea of Galilee. Cf. ℞ Nos. 144, 149.

1 Silurus, probably the sly silurus, or sheatfish in the U. S. called horn-pout — a large catfish.

2 Pelamis, a tunny before it is a year old.

3 Tunny, Tunafish.

4 Tor. wanting in the others.

5 Cf. note 1 to ℞ No. 424.

 p217  XII

427 Sauce for Salt Red Mullet
Ius in mullo​1 taricho​2

If in need of condiments use​3 pepper, rue, onions, dates, ground mustard; mix all with flaked meat of sea urchins, moisten with oil, and pour over the fish which is either fried or broiled, omitting salt.​4

1 Tor. mulo — the red sur‑mullet — a very esteemed fish.

2 Tarichea, a town of Galilee, on the sea of Galilee. Salt mullet as prepared at Tarichea was known as Tarichus. This became finally a generic name for all kinds of salt fish, whether coming from Tarichea or from elsewhere. We have an interesting analogy in "Finnan Haddie," smoked Haddock from Findon, Scotland, corrupted into "Finnan," and now used for any kind of smoked Haddock. Cf. ℞ Nos. 144, 149.

3 Tor. Quite correctly, he questions the need of condiments for salt fish.

4 List. uses this last sentence as the title for the next formula, implying that more salt be added to the salt fish; Tor. is explicit in saying that no salt be added which of course, is correct.


428 Fish Liver Pudding
Salsum, sine salso​1

Cook the liver of the mullet crush​2 and add pepper, either broth or salt​3 add oil, liver of hare, or of lamb​4 or of chicken, and, if you like, press into a fish mould​5 unmould after baking sprinkle with virgin oil.​6

1 Tor.

2 G.‑V. plainly, a contradiction. The possible meaning may be, "Salt Fish, without salt pork" as salt fish is frequently served with bacon.

3 Dann. Crush the liver, which is probably correct. A paste or forcemeat of the livers and fish were made.

4 The addition of salt would be superfluous if the liver of salt meat is used, excepting if the liver of hare, etc., predominated.

5 G.‑V. or liver of kid, wanting in Tor.

6 Such fish-shape moulds existed, made of bronze, artistically finished, sam as we possess them today; such moulds were made in various styles and shapes. Cf. ℞ No. 384.

7 This is an attempt to make a "fish" of livers, not so much with the intention to deceive as to utilize the livers in an attractive way. A very nutritious dish and a most ingenious device, requiring much skill.

This is another example of Roman cookery, far from being extravagant as it is reputed to be, it is economical and clever, and shows ingenuity in the utilization of good things which are often discarded as worthless.

429 Another Way, for a Change!
Aliter vicem gerens salsi​1

Cumin, pepper, broth, which crush, adding a little raisin wine, or reduced wine, and a quantity of crushed nuts. Mix everything well, incorporate with the salt​2 fish; mix in a little oil and serve.

1 G.‑V. Alter vice salsi.

2 Tor. & salibus imbue List. & salsa redde. There is no sense to Lister's version, nor can we accept G.‑V. who have et salari defundes.

430 Another Way
Aliter salsum in​1 salso

Take as much cumin as your five fingers will hold; crush half of that quantity of pepper and one piece of peeled garlic, moisten with broth and mix in a little oil. This will correct and benefit a sour stomach and promote digestion.​2

1 Tor., G.‑V. sine.

2 The title has reference to salt fish or salt pork; but the formula obviously is of a medicinal character and has no place here.


431 Baian Seafood Stews
Embractum​1 Baianum​2

Minced poached oysters, mussels​3 or scallops and sea nettles put in a sauce pan with toasted nuts, rue, celery, pepper, coriander, cumin, raisin wine, broth, reduced wine and oil.

1 List. emphractum — a caudle, a stew. Seafood stews of this sort are very popular in the South of Europe, the most famous among them being the Bouillabaisse of Marseilles.

2 Baiae, a very popular seaside resort of the ancients located in the bay of Naples.​a The stew was named after the place. Horace liked the place but Seneca warned against it.

3 Tor. spondylos; List. sphondylos — scallops. Both terms, if used in connection with the shellfish are correct. Lister in several places confuses this term with spongiolus — mushroom. This instance is the final vindication of Torinus, whose correctness was maintained in ℞ Nos. 41, 47, 115, seq.; 120, 121, 183, 309, seq.

End of Book IX​1
Explicit Apicii thalassa liber nonus2

1 It appears to us that Book IX and the following, Book X, judging from its recipes, phraseology and from other appearances is by a different author than the preceding books. (Long after having made this observation, we learn from Vollmer, Studien, that Books IX and X were missing in the Archetypus Fuldensis.)

2 Tac.

Thayer's Note:

a An Italian reader points out that although this is correct in English, it is not correct in Italian. The "Bay of Naples" is more properly the Gulf of Naples (Golfo di Napoli), which includes the Bay of Naples proper (Baia di Napoli), and to its west, the Bay of Pozzuoli. Baiae is on the Bay of Pozzuoli.

Page updated: 22 Mar 21