With 'Best Before' and 'Use By' dates in abundance, I think we have grown scared of what we eat. How many times have you poured away milk, or thrown out a loaf of bread because it was past the little date written on the packaging? Or how many times have you gone rummaging to the back of the supermarket shelves to gain an extra day or two? I know I do it all the time! In reality, your loaf of sliced white isn't going to turn into a rock-hard ball of blue fur the moment it hits midnight, and even if it does, it still has its uses.
This week we're taking stale bread, something which I imagine was abundant in ancient Rome, and giving it a little bit of extra life. To do so, we're going to enlist the help of our favourite Roman drink, Posca! The recipe, if followed literally, results in an unusual looking paste. Delicious though it is, it doesn't look very appetising, which is why I've made the salad a second way too.
You'll notice that the recipe calls for the dish to be chilled with 'snow'. Snow wasn't exactly abundant in ancient Rome, but it was possible to import some, albeit at great expense. The use of snow in this recipe adds an opulence which we, with our humble refrigerators, cannot hope to emulate. If winter has arrived, then feel free to use all the snow you want (as long as it isn't yellow) - the rest of us can make do without. As a final note, I've chosen to leave out mint, as I find it very overpowering - include it according to your own tastes.
Stale Bread Salad
"Hollow an Alexandrine loaf of bread, soak the crumbs in posca, and make a paste. In the mortar put some pepper, honey, mint, garlic, fresh coriander, salted cheese, water, and oil. Chill in snow and serve." - Apicius, 4.1.3
- Stale Bread
- One Glass of Posca
- One Clove of Garlic
- 50g Hard Cheese
- 1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns
- Small Handful of Coriander
- 1 tbsp Honey
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 50ml Water
Method 1 (The Paste Method)
- Add the pepper, cheese, coriander, and garlic to the mortar and grind it to a paste. Add the honey, oil, and water, and mix further. This is our dressing.
- Hollow out a loaf of stale bread - discard the crust (or put it to use if you can think of a way!)
- Soak the breadcrumbs in enough posca to make a paste. Place this paste in a serving dish, and smooth it out. Spoon over some of the dressing, refrigerate for half an hour, and serve to whoever is brave enough to eat it.
Method 2 (The Alternative)
- Make the dressing as outlined above.
I'll be the first to admit that neither of these dishes look particularly appetizing. Despite this, I still tucked into the both of them, and they were phenomenal! Posca brought the stale bread back to life, making it deliciously juicy, sweet, and easy to eat. The dressing was very reminiscent of moretum, one of the first recipes found on Pass the Garum - it was sweet, garlicy, and herby, with a bit of a kick from the black pepper. As for the two methods of making the dish, I would say that the first one tastes the best. I think we're all agreed, however, that the second is the better looking of the two. Take your pick.