​Did you know that the word 'recipe' comes from the Latin word 'recipere', meaning 'to take'? It took more than a thousand years after the end of the Roman empire for the word to be used to refer to a list of ingredients and instructions on using them, but some recipes still say things like, "Take 100g of butter ..." which might be the origin of the word we use today. 


In any case, here are the recipes for a three course meal that Lucy might have eaten with her family. The starter and main course come from the writings of Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet who lived at around the same time as Lucy, while the dessert is an older recipe from the writings of Cato.


Good luck!

Ancient Roman Recipe


4 medium-boiled eggs



pine nuts soaked in vinegar


garum fish sauce



  1. Mix pepper, lovage and pine nuts together.

  2. Pour over eggs with honey and vinegar.

  3. Mix with garum fish sauce.

Eggs were very popular in Roman times, especially as a starter, and the eggs in this recipe are served with a delicious pine-nut sauce.

Ingredients for boiled eggs with pine nut sauce

Modern Recipe


4 medium-boiled eggs

50g pine nuts

3 tablespoons vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 pinch pepper

1 pinch celery leaf

   (substitute for lovage)



  1. Soak the pine nuts 3-4 hours beforehand in the vinegar.

  2. Mix all the sauce ingredients thoroughly in a blender.

  3. Garum fish sauce was made by salting and fermenting the chopped up intestines of fish. You can substitute it either for plain salt, or possibly for an oriental Nam Pla fish sauce. Add according to your taste.

  4. Slice the eggs, arrange on a dish, pour sauce over, and serve immediately.

Hunting wild boar was a pastime which became popular with young Romans in the 3rd century BC (300-400 years before Lucy's time). It was thought to strengthen both body and character, because it required a lot of physical effort and determination, and because wild boar are famously rather fierce!


It is sometimes possible today to buy wild boar for cooking, though the oven in your kitchen at home probably wouldn't be big enough even for the smallest whole boar. In the modern recipe, we have therefore substituted pork, which is much easier to come by and needs less manhandling to get it into the oven!

Photograph © Helen Rickard

Ancient Roman Recipe


1 wild boar


roast cumin

ground pepper







  1. Sponge the boar clean and sprinkle with salt and roast cumin. Leave to stand 24 hours.

  2. The following day, roast in the oven.

  3. When cooked, scatter with ground pepper and pour over the meat juice, honey, liquamen, caroenum, and passum.

Modern Recipe


1,5 kg pork roasting joint


2-3 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground pepper

4-6 tablespoons honey

salt or Nam Pla fish sauce (liquamen substitute)

500ml wine reduced to 200ml (caroenum substitute)

100ml sweet dessert wine (passum substitute)



  1. Rub the pork joint with cumin and salt, and roast, covered, for 1.5 to 2 hours at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. To make caroenum, boil 500ml until it reduces to 200ml. Add the honey, sweet dessert wine (which is a substitute for passum), pepper, and salt or fish sauce to taste.  By Lucy's time, liquamen and garum were more or less the same thing.

  3. Take the pork joint out of the roasting pan and keep warm. Add the sauce you have made to the meat juices.

  4. Carve the pork into thin slices at the table and pour sauce over it before serving.

Libum was a type of cake sometimes offered as a sacrifice to the Lares, or household Gods, just as Lucy's family does. This recipe was included in Cato's writings about agriculture. It can be served hot if you prefer.

Ancient Roman Recipe


2 pounds cheese

1 pound bread-wheat flour

1 egg

bay leaves



  1. Crush the cheese well in a mortar

  2. Mix together with bread-wheat flour, or if you want a lighter cake, 1/2 pound fine flour instead.

  3. Add egg and mix well.

  4. Make into a loaf shape and place on bay leaves.

  5. Cook slowly in a hot fire under a brick.

Ingredients for Libum.

Photograph © Carole Raddato

Modern Recipe (serves 4)


200g ricotta cheese

125g plain flour

1 egg, beaten

bay leaves

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) clear honey



  1. Beat the cheese until it's soft, and then mix in flour and egg. 

  2. Make into a soft dough and divide into four.

  3. Shape each piece of dough into a bun and place the buns on a baking tray with a fresh bay leaf underneath each one.

  4. Pre-heat oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7.

  5. Cover the cakes with your 'brick'. In Roman times this was a domed clay cover called a 'testo' - you can use an upside-down metal bowl or casserole dish for this.

  6. Bake cakes for 35-40 minutes until golden-brown.

You might notice that Cato's recipe doesn't mention honey, so presumably the cakes themselves weren't sweet. However, since all modern versions include honey, we might imagine that the Romans dipped their cakes in honey. To finish yours, warm the honey, pour it into a dish, and place the warm cakes in it for 30 minutes to soak it up before serving.

"Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real."

Cormac McCarthy

Last updated 22 February 2021  © Julia Edwards

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