Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Ancient Roman Cheesecake

I’ve been playing around with some ancient Roman recipes recently, and wanted to share this one with you. The ancient Romans had two kinds of cheesecake, a savoury version (libum) and a sweet version (savillum). Savillum was eaten as part of secunda mesa (dessert) and was one of the Romans’ favourite sweets. It might also be offered as a sacrifice, though a lighter (and more cake-like) honey cake was more often used for this purpose. Here is a recipe from Cato’s De Agri Cultura (On Agriculture), from around 160 BC.

Cato says:

Take ½ pound of flour, 2½ pounds of cheese, and mix together as for the libum; add ¼ pound of honey and 1 egg. Grease an earthenware dish with oil. When you have mixed thoroughly, pour into a dish and cover with a crock. See that you bake the centre thoroughly, for it is deepest there. When it is done, remove the dish, cover with honey, sprinkle with poppy-seed, place back under the crock for a while, then remove from the fire. Serve in the dish, with a spoon. (translation from LacusCurtius)

And here’s a version you can try. You'll need the following ingredients:

15 Bay Leaves
3 Eggs
225g Ricotta Cheese
½ Cup of Plain Flour
½ Cup of Honey (Make sure it’s good honey! This will be the main flavour)
1 Teaspoon Grated Orange Zest
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
Poppy Seeds/Nuts/Honey to Drizzle

You can find the recipe on here. Don't forget to grease the sides of the dish so the cheesecake doesn’t stick too much. I would advise leaving the cake to cool and fully set before eating. I served it chilled with warm honey drizzled on top, and it was yummy! You can then choose to sprinkle on a topping if you like - poppy seeds as Cato suggests, or nuts if your prefer. Enjoy!

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