Apicius 435


Ius in pisce elixo

Piper, ligusticum, cuminum, cepulam, origanum, nucleos, caryotam, mel, acetum, liquamenº, sinapi, oleum modice. Ius calidum si uelis, uuam passam.



Sauce for boiled fish

Pepper, lovage-seed, cumin, an onion, marjoram, pine-kernels, dates, honey, vinegar, garumº, mustard, a little olive oil. If you want a hot sauce: raisins.




As in most of Apicius' recipes for suaces, the most important constituent is omitted here: resourcefulness. What else is this recipe than a list of ingredients? Quantities remain to be guessed and the end of the recipe is a puzzle to anyone endowed with reason.
"Ius calidum" cannot mean anything but "hot sauce". But how? Does Apicius inform us that the sauce is to be served hot rather than cold? Is there a need to add some of the hot broth in which the fish was cooked? And what have raisins got to do with this?

Let's start off with the things that are clear. Pepper, lovage and cumin are mentioned in may of Apicius' recipes as a kind of Holy Trinity, sometimes distinctly set apart from other herbs. This indicates that the aromatic seeds of Ligusticum officinale are to be used, rather than the fresh herb. As these are hard to come by if you do not own a garden, we will be bound to use the herb instead. Just grind some of these spices in a mortar.
Fry the chopped onion in two spoonfuls of olive oil. Another option is to grate the onion, but this can add a slightly bitter tang to the sauce. As does the marjoram, so be carefull with quantities.
Pine-kernels are usually meant to bind the sauce, so these too will have to pass through the mortar. A couple of dates, chopped very finely, and a tablespoon of honey bring in the sweet; vinegar and mustard (sparingly!) take care of the sour.

In my first try at this recipe I translated the end of it as: "If you want, add some of the hot broth. Add raisins." This means one has to dilute the sauce with some of the stock. Afterwards take the fish from the pan, drain, put in a dish and pour the sauce over it.