Monday, 4 March 2013

Punic Wars and Porridge (Part 4 of 6)

With Hannibal marching around Italy raiding farms for food, the Romans were stuck behind their walls living off grain shipped in from Sicily.  These were hard times for both armies, something which I think is reflected in this porridge recipe; gone is the luxury of the honey, cheese, and eggs of last week's Punic Porridge.  Of course, we must remember that many Romans never even had that luxury in the first place.  In fact, this 'semolina' based porridge was probably something that most Romans could only ever dream of.  A new study has revealed that the majority of people in the Roman world lived on a diet of millet - commonly used today as bird seed.

If it's that authentic Roman peasant or Punic War experience you're after, then replace the semolina with millet and eat this meal every day for 17 years.  Otherwise, whilst you're wolfing down this rather plain porridge, be grateful that you only have to do it the once!

Roman Porridge
(serves 1)

Pour groats into a clean pot with fresh water and bring to the boil.  When cooked, slowly add enough milk that it turns into a thick cream. - Cato, de agricultura, 86


  • 40g Semolina
  • 75ml Water
  • 25ml Milk


  • Add the semolina and water to a saucepan, and bring to the boil.  You don't want too much water, so add just what you need.
  • When it starts to thicken up (5 or 10 minutes), add the milk bit by bit and let it simmer for a while.  If it's too watery, or if you like your porridge thicker, add more semolina.


This porridge looks and tastes like a bowl of hot semolina, which is unsurprising because that is exactly what it is.  It is certainly filling, and not at all unpleasant to eat, but just a bit boring and utilitarian.  Needless to say I feel a bit more sympathy for the everyday Roman whose entire eating life was spent alternating between this porridge and heavy bread.


  1. i'd hate to eat this everyday for the rest of my army life thats for sure

  2. Made this for breakfast and it wasn't bad. Reminds me of Cream of Wheat. I added a little butter for flavor. It was definitely filling and made me feel sympathy for those roman soldiers!