Ancient Roman Banquet

After L’s successful guest post in October, my younger daughter told me today that she also wanted to write a guest post for A Merrier World (not that there’s ever a hint of sibling rivalry between them, of course …) So, here is M – she is six years old and has been having a lot of fun at school this term …

We have been learning about the Ancient Romans at school. A Roman centurion came in to help us learn about them. We made shields and then we had a battle with the Year Ones. We used balls instead of cannons and swords. The Year Ones (who were supposed to be the Celts) kept on running away, so we won. The centurion also brought in some fish sauce that smelled disgusting!

Anyway, on Friday the 23rd we did a Roman presentation. I was in the Roman banquet scene. My line was, “The Romans loved holding feasts. One of the things they loved was… peacock brains!” Somebody else in the Roman banquet said they also liked surprises in their food such as doves flying out of the stomach cavity of a roasted suckling pig. We discovered that the Romans lay down to eat and that they made themselves sick so that they could eat more (but that was only in fancy banquets).

Today we had a Roman banquet in our classroom. Everyone dressed up as Romans. I was a slave who opened the door. Here’s an interesting fact – the slaves who opened the doors had to look fancy so everyone knew that the person who owned the house was rich.

Our teachers had researched lots of Ancient Roman recipes. Some of the recipes were in the cookery book that I took into school for them. At our banquet, we tasted lots of food that the Romans would have eaten. I only liked the grapes and the apple as well as the bread dipped in olive oil. I didn’t like the peacock brains, which were really just mince cooked in the oven. When we were making the peacock brains, we had to put our hands in the mince. I hated the honey cake – it looked like an omelette (and I don’t like them either!). There were some olives as well, but I didn’t try them.

For dessert, we all ate some Ancient Roman biscuits that I had baked last night with my Mum. They were called ‘serpette’ and they used honey instead of sugar. We sprinkled sugar on the top instead of sesame seeds because we thought they would be tastier that way. Unfortunately, the Romans didn’t have sugar, so that bit wouldn’t have been invented in Roman times. We made them into ‘S’ shapes like the serpette biscuits that are made today in the Castelli Romani near Rome.

My friends said that the biscuits were really delicious. They asked me how I had made them into ‘S’ shapes. I told them that we rolled some of the dough into a sausage shape and then we curled it around so that it looked like an ‘S’.

Ancient Roman Honey Serpette

12 1/2 oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder (which the Romans didn’t have – sorry!)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda (as above … sorry!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
6 oz honey
2 eggs
1 egg white and castor sugar to sprinkle (or sesame seeds)

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and use a whisk to mix them all together.

Use another bowl now. Put the butter and honey into it and beat them together. Add the eggs a bit at a time. Make sure that everything is mixed up very well.

Tip the flour and stuff into the bowl and mix it all together to make a dough.

Cover the dough bowl with cling film and put it into the fridge until the dough is cold and firmer.

Put the oven on to 180 degrees C.

Grease some baking trays and line them with baking parchment.

Sprinkle some flour on the work top. Roll bits of the dough into long sausage shapes. Cut them into shorter lengths and curl them to make an ‘S’ shape. Put the S’s onto the baking trays.

Brush some egg white onto the top of each serpette (this is a bit like glue) and sprinkle the tops with a bit of castor sugar.

Bake the serpette in the oven for about 7 minutes or until they are just turning golden.

Cool the serpette on a wire rack.

Eat – yum, yum!

Leave a comment

10 Comments

  1. Lucy

     /  March 28, 2012

    Well done, M! You look so beautiful in your gorgeous red dress. Can’t wait to see you in the holidays. Luvnhugs, Aunty Lucy xxxxxooooo

    Reply
  2. Jon

     /  March 28, 2012

    Great blog! Be thankful they didn’t make you drink any wee! This was how Roman doctors decided what was wrong with their patients!

    Reply
  3. Dad

     /  March 29, 2012

    Another Roman delicacy was roast dormouse!
    Having sampled your serpettes we think that they are superior by far.
    Thank you for your “goody bag” gift of them.
    Love Grandpa and Granny
    xxxooo

    Reply
  4. ‘M’, Thank you for your informative Roman knowledge. I did not know that about the peacock brains. I am sure all the UK peacocks were glad to see the Romans go back home.
    (Peacocks are too beautiful and noisy to eat, I say!)
    You look very fancy and pretty in the red dress. I would let you open my doors even though I am not rich!
    The S biscuits look pretty good to me, and i think the honey in them sounds quite nice. They must have been quite flat and chewy without any baking soda or powder in Roman times. I guess we can be thankful we have leavening in our biscuits now!
    I sure enjoyed reading your post. Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Annabel Williams

     /  November 3, 2012

    hi M (and Mum), my daughter and I just made your cookies as she is doing a Roman project at school. They taste really nice and worth making even if you are not doing a roman project! But can you tell us any more about why they are shaped as an “S” in case her teachers or friends want to know. Thanks very much from Chloe and Annabel x

    Reply
    • I can’t swear to it, but I think a serpette is some sort of knife used for pruning. It’s shaped like a letter S … hence the name and shape of the cookies. So pleased you found the post helpful – I hope your daughter has as much fun as my own daughter did doing her Roman project :-)

      Reply
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