10.1.8 Another Alexandrian sauce for grilled fish

pepper, lovage, green coriander, onion, stoned damsons, passum, liquamen, defrutum and cook it.


We saw the fishmonger the other day. He had some really gorgeous looking sardines in. I found them irresistable, which was a little bit of a logistical problem. We canceled the rest of the day’s plans so I could get them home and prepared as soon as possible. They were that fresh.

Happily, all of the ingredients were easily available, which was a surprise this late in the season.

A couple of months ago we went to the wine making supply shop and bought almost 70 lbs of grape juice, fresh pressed to order. We made a gallon and a half of defrutum, and the rest into sapa.

I used this and some bortyrised wine trying to pass itself off as a tokaj as the passum.

There was a nice second round of lovage in the garden, and plums were still available at the fruit stand. Not damsons, but plums nonetheless, and they worked out acceptably well..

All of the solid ingredients were chopped and simmered.. A lid would have been helpful, but it was forgotten. Some of the water evaporated, leaving a denser, more caramelised sauce.

I did use a potato masher as the solids softened, and considering the intended audience, I strained the sauce well before plating.

Other recipes for grilling fish (Scappi, not entirely relevant) mentioned leaving the scales on the fish, and gutting them as cleanly as possible.

The scales insulated the very delicate meat, and allowed the skin to come off very cleanly. That was a factor in protecting the delicate flesh, as well as in being more easily able to present the fish at table.

Serve with lots of napkins, and plan to do laundry.


sardines (6)

3-4 sardines per person,

4 large plums or 8 smaller ones,

4 oz whole cilantro plant, preferably including roots

5  oz reduced grape juice

3 oz fish sauce

a baseball sized onion (I had a leek)

2 -3 oz fresh lovage, or the leaves from one bunch of celery


Coarsely chop all of the fruits and vegetables. Place in a pot with the liquid ingredients, and simmer until fully cooked.

sardines (7)

Grill, roast, pan fry, or otherwise prepare the fish as you are most comfortable doing.

The prescribed method calls for carefully placing the fish on skewers and grilling by charcoal, which is an excellent and delicious method.

Mash the sauce well, in order to release juices from the fruit. Strain and place on the plate, or in a separate dipping bowl.

sardines (11)

Serve hot.



Salsa de Pago; Sauce for a Peacock
(too long to transpose)

(part of an ongoing series in which I share recipes presented at The Lay of El Cid hosted by Barony Bhakail)
Poached collops of chicken
served with a sauce of

¼ c chicken fat from poaching pot
4 oz onion
2 c chicken broth
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp grains of paradise, ground finely
¼ tsp cinnamon or ginger
1/8 tsp cloves,
1 pinch saffron
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs approx honey
1 Tbs approx Sour Orange juice

Collect fat from pot.
Fry onions in chicken fat.
Pour off frying fat.
Add dry spices to onions.
Sautee in residual fat.
Add chicken broth to the onions, simmer.
Add saffron water, bit by bit, til color shifts toward red.
Taste. Adjust. If too saffron-y, add chicken fat.
Add sour orange juice (modicum, not a lot)]
Add honey to balance
Taste again.

Use immersion blender to homogenise if you wish.
It should be red/tan in color, with a pleasant sweet/acid balance from the
sauteed onions, the honey, and the sharp sour oranges.
If sour oranges are not available, try a blend of orange and lime, or
perhaps some grapefruit juice for home use.

Santanach, Joan, trans. Robin Vozelgang. The Book of Sent Sovi Medieval Recipes from Catalonia. First Edition. Barcelona, Spain: Barcino-Tamesis, 2008. 42-45. Print.

Let’s start with 3.3 Asparagus.

Dry the asparagus, put it upright in hot water.

 That’s the instructions for basic cooked asparagus. I didnt change a word from the translation.

No call for salt, no call for anything other than the simplest boiled asparagus.


From there, I went to my target recipe, 4.2.6, which calls for the trim and snipped ends from the asparagus cooked by recipe 3.3

Using the trim from the vegetable, pound in a mortar with the other ingredients, then strain.

Cook the liquid in an oiled dish, or add an egg to thicken, then use.


I do not have asparagus, it’s string bean season now. String beans are a distinctly modern vegetable, but I like them, I have them, and I consider them a not-unreasonable substitution for asparagus in current context, though not for historically minded service.

a mess of string beans, standing in for asparagus

lots of them.

I chose not to boil the string beans, as I strongly dislike them cooked that way.

After pan-searing them with a bit of red wine, I selected out a handful of cooked string beans, and put them with the rest of the ingredients (except sorrel, which I could not get in good condition) into a processor, and liquefied.

all items in the processor

mortar and pestle gives a different texture.

At this point the sauce was raw, the fresh onion made the liquid quite “hot”. It requires a bit of cooking to unify the flavors.

separating the liquid sauce and preparing to cook it for use

not yet cooked or thickened.

Instructions suggested cooking the sauce with an egg to add body, and serving it over chicken or fish.
To cook the sauce with the egg, at least from a modern kitchen perspective,  the egg must be “tempered”, or acclimated to the heat of the sauce so as not to curdle. To temper an egg, see the note below.

Recipe: Apicius 4.2.6 Another Patina of Asparagus


  • ¼ c cooked asparagus or tender green vegetables
  • ¼ c loosely packed lovage leaves
  • 1/8 c loosely packed cilantro, well picked
  • 1/8 c sorrel, not from a jar.
  • 1 fresh green onion, about the size of a golf ball
  • ¼ c red wine
  • slightly less than ¼ c liquamen (fish sauce, or in a pinch, somewhat less of soy or worcestershire)
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place all items into a processor or mortar and pestle. Liquefy. Strain.
  2. Set aside solids for an application where they will add flavor, such as stuffing poultry.
  3. Cook liquid just enough to take out the rawness of the fresh onion, or
  4. use liquid as a cooking sauce or poaching liquid for delicate meats.


-Not the most evocative or memorable sauce

-not very pretty.

+highly seasonal

+extremely versatile

+ simple enough to make, can be good for a novice to practice on

+ can be prepared in advance and frozen well.

Quick notes

A cover  for the lack of Sorrel might be a bit of lemon peel or a squirt of lemon at the end

As a substitution for Lovage consider some celery leaf.

The recipe does state flexibility, mentioning greens, briony, wild herbs, and other such tender vegetables as alternatives to the asparagus.

Being presented as a dish of of a using up of leftovers to make a sauce for other things, only one of the small components is actually a second usage. In a high volume kitchen, this recipe does fill a hole, but for current menu planning it’s a little more of a unique thing.

After a straining, I used the solids to coat a chicken, and some of the strained sauce went to glaze a meatloaf.

Other of the sauce dressed the rest of the seared string beans.


a roast chicken which has been rubbed with the solids from the sauce before cooking

flattened chicken with the solids of the sauce.

To temper an egg, crack an egg, and whip it.

Heat the liquid portion of the sauce in a pot.

Remove about a teaspoon of hot liquid from the sauce, and place it into the bowl containing the egg,whip briskly until incorporated.

Continue adding heated sauce slowly, slowly raising the temperature of the eggs as you continue.
This allows the sauce to incorporate and warm the egg without scrambling.

Place the egg and sauce back in the pot over a very low flame and stir, do not allow it to curdle.

Should the sauce begin to set like an egg rather than a custard, strain before service. It can take practice.


A salad, or perhaps a chutney, of boiled beets and leeks, dressed with passum and liquamen, cumin and pepper.


cubed beets, diced leeks, and a grape sauce in a yellow bowl

it's festive, and gently sweet and sour

The joy that is farm market season is upon me! Overwhelming and worrisome at times, I wind up with a plethora of stuff I have no particular interest in.

This time, it was a magnificence of beets. Oy.


I know beets are red. I know they are unexpectedly sweet, but people pickle them. That’s about all I know.


Leeks, beets, a bottle of grape juice, and a bottle of fish sauce

beets and leeks are both very sandy, be aware of cleaning them cautiously

Apicius calls for beets and stored leeks to be boiled, plated, and dressed with a boiled sauce.


The sauce calls for Passum, which according to my books is a reduced grape juice used as a sauce, flavoring, sweetener, and so-on.

I had to source non-concord (a new-world grape) juice to boil down for the passum, grape must syrup, which was rather more of a challenge than expected. I got a de-alcolised wine and a grape juice, but went with the grape juice for this run. I did try to get wine grape juice, but it will be a bit more effort.


a saucepan containing boiling reduced grape juice, with the fish sauce being added.

dishwashing is serious business

After boiling down the syrup, cubing and boiling the beets to tenderness, and blanching the leeks, I chilled all of the components separately overnight, then prepared them for service.

First I tried slicing the leeks a few ways, but found that a simple large dice was most conducive to eating. Being that they can get slimy when boiled, the cut allows them to separate and maintain a pleasant texture.

The beets were cut to a similar size, and plated with the leeks.


beets and leeks in the bowl, before being sauced

Keep utensil size in mind when chopping the veggies

The sauce was simply the “passum” with cumin, black pepper, and a little liquamen to balance the sweetness, and allowed to boil hard for a minute to set the flavors.


A surprisingly light and refreshing salad, which could easily be served cool on a summers’ evening.

As an alternative, you can chop the leeks and veggies even smaller, simmer them in the sauce, and serve as a condiment rather than a salad.  It tastes quite nice, which is a relief. I have a lot of beets!

Recipe: Apicius 3.2 An Easily Digested Relish


  • 1 beet, cooked til tender in salted water
  • 1 leek, cooked til tender in salted water. Shock in cold water.
  • 1 cup grape juice (not concord) or similar fruit juice, reduced by half
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground


  1. Dice the leeks
  2. dice the beets
  3. plate them. Think “easy to eat with a salad fork”
  4. Boil the reduced grape juice, fish sauce, cumin, and pepper together.
  5. Pour over the salad as a hot dressing.

Quick notes

-Beets stain

-Leeks need to be treated cautiously, they can get slimy when cooked

-easy to overdo the pepper, make the sauce in advance and be sure of your balance

-easy to oversalt, the boiling water and the liquamen are both salty

+Easy to prepare in advance

+Reasonable, seasonable, and less-common ingredients, unlikely to have “beet fatigue”

+Beet water can easily be made into soup.

Remember “lemon chicken” from the takeout American style Chinese place when we were kids? It was so unexpected, sweet and sour, dense and light at the same time. Remember trying it again when we were older, expecting some of that surprise and amusement again, but instead finding a heavy, gloppy starch bomb with more of the bitter than the sour from the lemons, and more of the cloying than balance from the sweetener?


This is not that. This is what we wish that had been all along.


lemons, spices, a bowl of broth, a bowl of almonds, skin removed, a pile of peppercorns, a little saffon, and a small bowl of sugar (consider it a spice)

an unlikely shopping list

This Catalan sauce is rich and complex, sour, sweet, light, earthy, balanced, and fun. It’s a little demanding, a little fussy, but it’s special enough to do what it takes to make it, and find excuses to serve it.


One of the hallmarks of Pre-Columbian European food is the heavy reliance on almonds. Every time I do make an almond-milk based recipe, particularly one calling for significant boiling or acid, I wonder why this wonder ingredient ever left our common repertoire. Is this an American prejudice, or a more general modern one?


creamy almond milk in a pan, with chicken broth showing through

as rich as it can be

One note in the translation I have access to is to add “sweetener” at the end, seemingly differentiated from all of the notes about sugar. I need to spend more time with the manuscript to clarify that.


a chicken leg in a bowl sitting in the lemon sauce

Definitely needed a bowl.

Recipe: Lemon Sauce

Summary: Sent Sovi


  • 1 ½ cup almonds
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 3 TBS sugar
  • ½ cup lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
  • 1/8 tsp ginger, powdered
  • 1/8 tsp pepper, ground
  • 1/8 tsp saffron
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • a little mace, a couple of cloves, a bit of cinnamon, or the spices which strike you as wise


  1. Soak the almonds overnight, slip the skins. If they will not slip, poach them in hot water for just a moment, dunk them in cold water, and try again.
  2. Simultaneously put saffron into warm water, let it sit.
  3. Grind any spices which need grinding.
  4. Warm the stock if it is set from storage, and put it with the almonds in the blender.
  5. Whiz.
  6. Strain
  7. Chuck the solids unless you have an immediate use, they would be nice in stuffing a chicken, or mincing with some poultry into a forcemeat for a pie. I’d be leery of saving them even in the freezer for future use, too easy to mix up.
  8. Put resulting liquid into a pot
  9. Add spices and sugar, but not salt or lemon quite yet.
  10. Simmer.
  11. Taste for salt, adjust.
  12. Add the saffron with it’s liquid.
  13. Begin to add lemon juice, ¼ cup first, then a little at a time until you like the flavor. Be mindful that there will be a final shot of acid from verjus at the last moment.
  14. Allow the pot to boil, but watch it closely, it will try very hard to boil over.
  15. After a solid couple of minutes boiling, allow it to cool, taste again for salt and seasonings.
  16. Add any spices which need a little boost, a shot of verjus, and adjust the sugar.
  17. The addition of verjus adds a new dimension to the acid from the lemon, providing a complexity and depth. It’s pleasant without, but fascinating with.
  18. If you find it too runny for service in your situation, you can thicken it pretty easily, but that will affect reheating.



-absolutely requires fresh lemons

-some people find it too tart

-quite runny and wet

-needs constant attention

-needs careful measuring and planning

-really benefits from the verjus, can be insipid without

+can be scaled up with caution

+overnights well for three days

+can take a hard boil without damage

+Once you know how much lemon juice you prefer in this sauce, you can just pre-measure everything and dump it all in.

Preparation time: 1 day to soak almonds, or blanching time

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Sauce for a Gos
A Fifteenth Century Cookry Boke
Compiled by John L Anderson
Page 68

Salsa D’Oques, Goose Sauce
Sent Sovi

The Cookry Boke is a compilation of recipes from manuscripts commonly referred to as Harleian and Ashmolean, some owned by the British Museum, others by the Bodleian Library. These manuscripts contain many recipes, and are a kind of rosetta stone for cooks, having several touchstones of information to use as reference points. It’s quite common for these books, being from different countries and different centuries, to have related recipes. Some are more recognisable as being of a type than others.

This concept is interesting and simple; stuff a game bird with garlic, grapes, parsley and salt. When the bird is done, beat in cooked egg yolks, then add verjus, season, and serve.

grapes, herbs, a duck, garlic, and eggs assembled for preparation in bowls and dishes.


The Sent Sovi is quite similar, in that it calls for garlic, raisins and salt to be placed in the bird before roasting, then to pound it together with egg yolks and almond milk, spice it, cook it again, and finally add verjus and chicken livers.

The recipes are obviously similar, but one is either short-hand or simply a basic theme, while the Spanish iteration is explicit in direction, far more elaborate, and festive. It is more likely to be intended as a meal when there are guests than a regular offering.

We prepared the grape-based dish, and found it to be very well balanced, easy to make both in and out of the bird, and a lovely complement to the richness of the meat.

completed roast stuffed duck in a close fitting pan. The skin is scored to allow fat to drain.

roasted and ready for plating.

One thing to be aware of is what grapes might have been available at the time the recipe was developed. We had no options available but red seedless, though these do not have great flavor. I strongly suggest avoiding concords unless they grow in your yard, they have a very distinct flavor and are native to the US.

If you use a seeded grape, you may wish to run them through a food mill to remove the seeds after roasting and before blending.


Recipe: Sauce for a Gos


  • 1/2 cup garlic
  • 1/2 cup grapes
  • 1/2 cup whole fresh parsley, loosely packed
  • 1/2 Tbs salt
  • 3 hard egg yolks (see note)
  • 1/2 cup verjus, red wine, or red wine vinegar


  1. Stuff the bird with the grapes, garlic, parsley and salt, roast til done.
  2. Alternative; sautee the above ingredients together in a bit of poultry drippings or oil.
  3. When the garlic is translucent and the grapes are ready to burst, remove and cool.
  4. Blend with the three hard boiled egg yolks, adding verjus as needed to make it into a sauce.
  5. There is not enough fat in this to emulsify into a mayonnaise-like consistency, it will be runny. Don’t worry if it doesn’t develop body.
  6. Slice the meat to be served and drizzle the sauce over it.

Number of servings (yield): 2


(Note for the eggs. Make 6 hard boiled eggs and save the whites from the ones you need for this recipe, make stuffed eggs. I’ll be posting that recipe in the not too distant future.)

After roasting, I found that the stuffing had not cooked to my preferences for food-safety, so I put it into a small pan on the stovetop til it was fully cooked.

Then, in a blender, I put three hard egg-yolks (saved the whites for lunch the next day) and added a fresh, red verjus.

Whipping in the blender did not emulsify the sauce, though I thought there might be a possibility that a mortar and pestle might create more of a creamy texture.

sliced breast of duck on a green plate, napped with a tan sauce with flecks of green herbs. The sauce is about the texture of hollandaise.

serving portion, waiting for sides and accompaniments.

+Verjus is not so acid as to unbalance the dish
+Eggs bring the sauce together
+Grapes, garlic and parsley tie into a very pleasant flavor.
+The sauce can be made in a pan or pot with broth, with little loss of flavor
+Most components are easily prepared in advance
+Doesn’t separate too quickly, and while it’s best hot, doesn’t suffer from being served tepid.
+The colors can easily be manipulated into something heraldic, if that amuses you