Libum Roman cheesecake

Ancient Food… Part 1

In thinking about a post-apocalyptic world I spent quite a lot of time thinking about food. Nothing new then! Food and the enjoyment of food, as I have observed before, is a universal human trait. What sort of food might people in such an England enjoy? One thing is for certain; that mass produced, packaged food would be off the menu. Home cooking and simple fare based on locally available ingredients would, obviously form the day to day. Fancy food, party food, would equally obviously become more important, with the use of exotic imported ingredients, when the intention is to impress.

In that vein I shall start with a very simple sort of honey cheesecake, libum, brought to England by the Romans. Libum is very easy to make and has an interesting taste and dense texture. Baking on a layer of bay leaves not only prevents it sticking to the baking tray but imparts a gently herby flavour that goes well with the honey. I have seen various recipes and I can only speak from limited experience of making these that the directions below appear to work, whether they are ‘authentic’, or indeed particularly good examples of the species, is a totally different question.

Ingredients (makes 2 cakes, will serve 4 as a dessert):

  • 1 x 165g pot Ricotta
  • 80g plain flour
  • 1 x egg beaten
  • bay leaves
  • honey to drizzle

Very roughly the ratio of cheese to egg to flour is 2:1:1 by weight. No additional liquid is necessary as the cheese is wet.

Mix the flour, eggs and cheese together to form a smooth, very soft dough. It is very sticky. Turn out on to a well-floured surface and knead very briefly. Divide into two small roll sized pieces and place on a layer of bay leaves on a baking sheet. The bay leaves should cover the underside of the cakes. Bake at about 160C fan for about an hour, or until slightly risen, golden brown with a cracked top. A meat thermometer through the middle will tell you if they are cooked through. Drizzle honey over and serve warm.

thumbnail Renaissance cover

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