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History Cookbook: Roman Lentil Casserole ( Pottage)

This recipe is in categories Romano-British, Healthy eating, Soups and Sauces
About this recipe
Healthiness : (528 votes)
Difficulty:  3 out of 5 difficulty

This recipe has several steps and you do need to be organised before starting. You will need to make the defrutum the day before as it takes about 3 hours to make. It will keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes + 3 hours for defrutum + soaking lentils overnight
Number of servings: 4
Serving suggestions: Serve with flat bread.
This is a vegetarian recipe

This Roman recipe has a complex balance of flavours and makes the lentils into a splendid dish in their own right. Romans ate many varieties of lentils but red lentils seem to have be used in Romano-British dishes in particular. You can, however, use any lentils for this dish.

Defrutum is a kind of syrupy, grape juice and we have included the recipe here too. You can eat the cooked figs with cream and a little of the syrup as a pudding once you have made your defrutum.

We used dried rue as we were not able to obtain fresh. It was added with the thyme, but do make sure you add these early enough to soften completely.



  • 1 litre red grape juice
  • 5 dried figs


  • 250 gm lentils
  • 3 medium sized leeks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 heaped tbsp set honey
  • 1 tbsp defrutum (reduced red grape juice and fig sauce)
  • 20 gm coriander seed
  • pinch of asafoetida resin
  • 3 tsp fresh mint or 2 tsp dried mint
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce (You could use soy sauce to make a vegetarian version but add the sauce to taste)
  • large handful of green coriander, chopped (about half a bunch)
  • 1 tsp chopped rue
  • plain/corn flour to thicken
  • generous grinding of black pepper.
  • Saucepan
  • Strainer
  • Knife
  • Pestle & mortar
  • Spoon
  • Weighing scales
Making and cooking it
Always wash your hands before preparing food Always wash your hands before preparing food.


  1. Simmer the figs in the red grape juice for 3 hours or until reduced by two thirds.


  1. Soak lentils overnight
  2. Drain and cover with fresh water (you can add white wine for a richer dish)
  3. Bring to the boil and simmer until starting to soften
  4. Add the clean leeks and continue cooking
  5. Add the olive oil, vinegar, honey and defrutum.
  6. Dry roast the coriander seeds and asafoetida
  7. Grind them to a powder and add to the pan
  8. Add the dried mint (if using)
  9. When fully cooked add the fish sauce, fresh coriander, rue and mint
  10. Bring back to heat and thicken with a little cornflour
  11. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve
Roman Lentil Casserole ( Pottage) - print view  Roman Lentil Casserole ( Pottage) - print view

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Name: Flavio 5th December 2016
Based on Apicius, De Re Coquinaria, Liber V - Chapter II Lenticula (III Aliter Lenticulam)
Name: Jo 26th June 2016
We still make this (and versions thereof) in Italy. Lovely on a winter's day with crusty bread.
Name: Ted Collins 27th June 2011
Would it be possible to get a reference on the source of this recipe (and others in your history cookbook)? I do historical reenactment, and we like to be able to document the historical sources of things we use, including recipes. This particular recipe was reproduced with the kind permission of Sally Grainger from her book Cooking Apicus. She is a leading food researcher for this period and all recipes in our History Cookbook have come either from published works, with permission or directly from experimental cooks in this field who advised or supplied us with working recipes from original sources such as The Good Housewife's Jewel(1596) and The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Mrs Glasse (1774). In many instances the recipe in the introduction is the original recipe text.The Cookit Team
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