Monday, 21 October 2013

Roman (French) Toast

So much of Roman cooking involves familiarising yourself with the unfamiliar - obscure ingredients, unusual methods of preparation, and nigh-on-non-existent instructions.  So it took me by great surprise when, fumbling through the pages of Apicius, I found a very familiar recipe indeed - it would appear that the Romans had a thing for French Toast!

Needless to say the Romans were there first, so perhaps we should rename the recipe 'Roman Toast', but I can't help but imagine Vercingetorix, defeated by Caesar, being paraded through the streets of Rome with some French Toast in hand.

You may wonder what the point of posting this recipe is when I could just guide you elsewhere, but I think it's nice to see some continuity with the Roman world as well as the near-infinite differences.  You'll notice that the recipe calls for 'fine white bread' - given how time consuming and wasteful it is to produce white flour, white bread was a luxury available only to the well-off in the ancient world.  As it is written, this is a recipe of some status, but feel free to use whatever type of bread you wish, whether fresh or stale.

Roman Toast
(Makes 6 slices)

"Slice fine white bread, remove the crust, and break it into large pieces.  Soak these pieces in milk and beaten egg, fry in oil, and cover with honey before serving." - Apicius, 7.13.3


  • 3 Eggs
  • 200ml Milk
  • Honey
  • 6 Slices Bread


  • Thinly slice the loaf of bread - it fries better this way.  Remove the crusts, and break into large chunks if you wish.
  • Break the three eggs into a casserole dish or a bowl.  Add the 200ml of milk and mix it all together.
  • Soak the bread slices/chunks in the mixture for a few seconds on each side.  If you soak them for too long, the end result will be more omelette than toast (still tasty mind you).  Drain the excess mixture off.
  • Drop the bread into a hot, oily frying pan.  Turn it over occasionally, making sure it doesn't burn.  You know it's done when it starts to look like the picture below.  When you're ready to serve, cover it in honey, as per the recipe.  Cinnamon works well too, and was available to the Romans.


It tasted just as French Toast should taste!  It was crispy without being burnt, and tasted very sweet thanks to the honey added before serving.  All of the egg means that this is a filling dish - I started struggling after my third slice!


  1. Sounds tasty. And comforting! I imagine it would taste nice washed down with a glass of sweet mint tea.

  2. This reminded me what I wanted for breakfast. Ta.

  3. Awesome blog! I was wondering whether you have a tumblr for this? I think it would be really well received by the foodie section.

    1. I hadn't considered tumblr - not sure how it works, but I may well look into it :)

  4. I made this some time ago before discovering your blog (I just followed Apicius' instructions), and I think that I put way too much milk into it back then. Still tasted delicious, though.

  5. Which translation of Apicius did you use? If it's one I have, I'll have to look for the recipe. Thanks.

    1. Hi Cathy - I typically use a combination of translations, but always start with that on Lacus Curtius, checked against the Latin original.

  6. There'll be plenty of new recipes to see too! So, pour a glass of posca and see you at the new place! Discover More Here