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4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, informative with good recipes and great flavours, 3 Aug 2012
A. Byrnes "Andie" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Classical Cookbook (Paperback)
Unlike some history-themed cookbooks that claim to be able to bridge the past and present, this one actually does a really good job.

The Introduction. Using original Greek and Roman texts to gain an insight both into the type of meals enjoyed and the sort of recipes that might have been used, the authors provide details of their research into the topic in a short but highly informative and well written introduction. Looking at everything from banquets to kitchen equipment and some of the more unfamiliar ingredients, this is an excellent insight into Classical food, its preparation and how it was enjoyed. The list of unfamiliar ingredients is particularly useful, because the authors provide the reader with viable alternatives that are available in modern supermarkets, specialist stores or on the web.

The rest of the chapters are themed. So we start of with "The Homecoming of Odysseus." A quick introduction to the story, engagingly written, is followed by a discussion of the food and drink that "were at the center of Homeric life." As the authors say, although there are no recipes in the Iliad or Odyssey, there is a great deal of chat about the food and drink that might have been eaten. Homer gave some good descriptions, and these have been extrapolated to form some recipes to provide us with the fare that Homer presented in his poetry: porridge (made with ricotta and semolina), olive relish, Toronaean shark or tuna (in cumin and herbs), roast kid or lamb (marinaded with a date, red wine and honey sauce),chicken stuffed with olives, and pancake with honey and sesame seeds.

The other chapters follow a similar pattern, with the headings The Banquet of Philoxenus, The Markets of the Mediterranean, A Wedding Feast in Macedon, Cato's Farm, The Wealth of Empire, On Hadrian's Wall and Supper at the Baths.

Examples from each of the chapters are honey-glazed shrimps, rock eel (also called rock salmon or huss) with mulberry sauce, bream in cheese and oil, roast hare, honey nut cake,smoked sausages, spiced wine, stuffed gourd (marrow, squash or courgette), stuffed chicken, seafood rissoles with cumin sauce, patina of sole, cheesecake.

Each recipe is introduced with a suitable quotation from a Classical text and some notes about the recipe by the authors. This is followed with a serving guide (the average is probably around four), a list of ingredients and then instructions for how to assemble the dish.

Some of the flavour combinations are unusual (like fish with mulberry sauce or bream in cheese and oil). Thai fish sauce is used as a substitute for Roman fish sauce in several recipes, and some of the other ingredients are unusual (for example asafoetida, which although used in very small amounts appears regularly throughout the book). Many of the recipes are spiced using fennel seed, coriander, cumin, black pepper and lovage seed. Honey is used a lot.

Difficult to source away from a specialized supplier will be ingredients like brain (only in 2 recipes and minced lamb can be used instead), rue (a bitter herb for which they offer no alternative) and raisin wine (available but expensive - a dessert wine is suggested instead).

There are no photos of the completed meals, but throughout there are beautiful photographs of Greek and Roman objects, mosaics and frescoes depicting food and drink and their consumption.

The book wraps up with a note on Greek and Latin sources, picture credits, suggested further reading, and an index.

The recipes are varied and the ingredients usually quite straight forward to source. Some are quite elaborate, some very simple - it's a real mix. Some of the combinations of ingredients are unusual, producing really fresh results. In all, it is a lovely book, well produced, a pleasure to read and easy to follow.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another one for my cookbook library, 19 April 2013
Kester Tarragon "Kes" (Essex. United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Classical Cookbook (Paperback)
This is just what I wanted in my cookbook researches. I have learned a lot from this set of recipes and their origins.
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The Classical Cookbook
The Classical Cookbook by Sally Grainger (Paperback - 21 May 2012)
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