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Roman Lentil Casserole (Pottage)

This recipe is in categories Healthy eating, Romano-British, Soups and Sauces
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  • The Lentil Casserole
    The Lentil Casserole
About this recipe
Healthiness : (554 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
This is a vegetarian recipe
View a modern version of this 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.

For pictures of the cooking process see our Lentil Casserole Picture Gallery

With thanks to Sally Granger and Butser Ancient Farm for their help with this podcast



  • 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
  • large handful of green coriander, chopped (about half a bunch)
  • 1 tsp chopped rue
  • plain/corn flour to thicken
  • generous grinding of black pepper
  • Pan
  • Strainer
  • Knife
  • Pestle & mortar
  • Spoon
  • 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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There are 4 comments for this recipe.
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Name: Alagon 10th August 2015
Nicely described recipe, and fascinating site, but this one is definitely not vegetarian. The Fish sauce condemns it as one for those of an omnivorous palate.
Name: Hater 4th June 2014
nice recipe, very well described.
Name: Pinky 4th October 2013
Fish sauce and honey? That's not vegetarian! Fascinating site, thanks for sharing.
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