Meals and Recipes from Ancient Greece
by Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti

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Meals and Recipes from Ancient Greece

Try your hand at these ancient Greek recipes, just two of the 56 delicious ideas served up in the new book Meals and Recipes from Ancient Greece.

Zeno's Lentil Soup

Zeno's Lentil Soup

[Greek playwright] Aristophanes always served up modest lentil soup, whether in his Gerytades or in his Amphiaraus (both now lost), showing that it must be a pleasing potage. He calls it, "the sweetest of delicacies" (Athenaeus 4.158c).

1 lb. (450 g) lentils
8 cups (2 liters) broth
1 large minced leek
1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, and 1 small onion, all sliced
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
olive oil
12 coriander seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the lentils thoroughly, then put them into a pot with the broth to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. When the hour is up, skim the top, add the vegetables and leave simmer again until it is cooked (about 30 minutes). If the soup seems too watery, mix in some cornstarch, or, better yet, pass some of the lentils through a sieve. Now add the vinegar and honey. Pour into serving bowls and add a good dollop of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons per serving), sprinkling on the coriander seeds, and salt and pepper to taste.

It seems as if Zeno was pulling our leg with this recipe, as he writes that to finish off the soup, one should add 12 coriander seeds. This commendable precision regarding a quantity is not common in ancient recipes, at least in those that are not medicinal, but assuredly these 12 coriander seeds radically change the flavor of the soup.

Illustration from Meals and Recipes from Ancient Greece


Attanitai is a fried dough dessert mentioned by Hipponex in this verse: "when eating francolin [a game bird] and rabbits, flavor the fried teganitas dough with sesame seeds" (PLG 4.2.474). The term for this dessert comes from the word teganon, "frying pan." This confirms that we are dealing with fried dough and that this same dough once had sesame seeds added. There is a similar Greek recipe today called lukumathes, which can be made by adding grated lemon rind to the batter and using cognac instead of wine.

2 ¼ cups (500 g) plain yogurt or curdled milk
2 ½ cups (250 g) flour
4 tablespoons white wine
pinch of salt

light oil for frying
½ cup (125 ml) honey
cold water
sesame seeds on a plate (for rolling the dough after the honey has been drizzled over it)

Whisk together the curdled milk, wine, and salt. When well mixed, add the flour to make a paste that is soft and elastic. (If the weather is humid, more flour may be needed.) Let the dough chill for two hours in the refrigerator. Put a light oil in a deep pan for frying, and when it begins to smoke, drop small spoonfuls of dough—3–4 at a time—into the oil and fry them until they swell and are well browned. Take them out and drain them on paper towels. Heat the honey, diluting with a little cold water to make medium thick syrup. Slather the fried dough with enough honey to soak in, and then roll the honeyed ball in sesame seeds.

Makes about two dozen.

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Meals and Recipes from Ancient Greece is available in hardback for $24.95 at the Museum Stores at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa. You can also order by phone at (800) 223-3431 or buy this title online. Save 10% on your online order through April 30 by entering code 1173804120 at checkout.

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