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Juvenal and the Simple Life

Roast Pork with Aromatics 1

Roast Pork with Aromatics 4

By Tim Hazell

Poet and playwright Juvenal (AD 60–131) was a master of satire, using his craft to deliver scathing attacks on vice and corruption in ancient Rome. His teeming metropolis had an estimated population of one million. A third of the urban space was taken up by the estates of wealthy citizens, each with a house called a domus. The majority of people in Rome lived in buildings of several floors called insula, which lacked amenities and central plumbing. Apartments were in constant danger of burning down due to cooking fires.

When his fortunes had improved, Juvenal acquired a country home where he could indulge his predilections for free-range chicken, young lamb, and newly laid eggs. He extols the virtues of a rustic feast for a guest in this excerpt from his Satire XI, “Extravagance and Simplicity of Living.”

“From my Tiburtine farm there will come a plump kid, tenderest of the flock; some wild asparagus, gathered by the bailiff’s wife; and some lordly eggs, warm in their wisps of hay; together with the hens that laid them.”

Romans had no sugar and never cooked with butter. They used honey for sweetening, as well as passum, a prepared sweet wine. Garum—brine boiled with dry fish such as anchovies—replaced salt. Oriental fish sauce is a substitute.

This Roman method of roasting pork, written down by the gourmet Apicius, produces succulent results!


Porcelum Aenococtum (Pork Roasted with Aromatics)

Serves 6


3 tbsp olive oil

1-2 kg loin of pork

1 cup red wine

1/4 cup water

4 tsp garum or Oriental fish sauce

1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

4 spring onions sliced in half lengthwise and quartered

1 tsp sugar


For the sauce:

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1 tbsp chopped celery leaves

1 tsp crushed caraway seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp oregano

6 tbsp red wine sweetened with 1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp corn flour


Heat the oil in a casserole. Add pork loin, and brown gently on all sides. Add red wine, water, and half the garum with the chopped coriander and spring onions. Cover and place in a preheated 390º F oven, roasting 25 minutes per pound and 25 minutes extra. Baste the loin frequently with pan juices, lowering the heat to 375º F halfway through, earlier if the loin is browning too quickly. Combine the pepper, celery leaves, caraway and cumin seeds, and oregano on top of the stove in a saucepan with the rest of the garum, sweetened red wine, and 3 tablespoons of liquid in which the pork is cooking. Bring to the boil, simmer for 15 minutes, and turn off the heat. Transfer the pork to a serving platter, pouring off some of the fat. Blend corn flour with a little cold water, and stir into the sauce mixture. Pour the contents of the saucepan into the juices of the casserole. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Carve the roast and pass the sauce separately with a grinding of black pepper and a sprinkle of chopped coriander.


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