There’s nothing difficult about cooking Ancient Roman food, the hard part is deciphering a recipe which lists ingredients without measurements and makes no mention of cooking times. The part I enjoy is understanding what the ingredients actually are, and most of the time finding a substitute for them.
The ancient Romans cooked very much like Italian cooks do today or to be more precise, like Sicilian.cooks. If you can imagine a contemporary Italian meal without tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, corn polenta or pasta. Sounds bleak? It wasn’t.
Try this chicken a la fronto
The original recipe
From Apicius Pullum Frontonianum : Pullum praedura, condies liquamen, oleo mixto, cui mittis fasciculum aneti, porri, satureiae et coriandri viridis et coques, Ubii coctius fuerit, levabis eum, in lance defrito perungues, piper aspargis..
Brown chicken, season with garum and oil, add dill, leeks, savory, fresh coriander and cook. Remove when cooked, coat with defrutum on a serving plate, sprinkle pepper.
Garum and Defrutum
I’m certainly not making any authentic Garum as the Romans made it, I used Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa’s suggestion (from her excellent book A Taste of Ancient Rome) of reducing a litre of grape juice to one tenth, stirring in 2 tablespoons of anchovy paste and a pinch of dried oregano.
You could use fish sauce straight from the bottle, or diluted.
For Defrutum, I reduced 2 cups of red wine (a cheap cabernet shiraz ) to one third.