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Recipe for Mussels in
sweet wine sauce (in mitulis)

By Apicius IX-IX

Original recipe: Liber IX-IX, Thalassa

IX. in metulis: liquamen porrum concisum cuminum passum satureiam, uinum; mixtum facies aquatius et ibi mitulos quoques.

VI. in ostreis: piper ligusticum oui uitellum acetum liquamen oleum et uinum. si uolueris et mel addes.

VII. in omne genus conciliorum: piper ligusticum petroselinum mentam siccam cuminum plusculum mel liquamen. si uoles folium et malabatrum addes.

Translation: Book 9-9, From the sea.

9. Mussels: liquamen (garum), chopped leeks, passum, savory, wine. Dilute the mixture with water, and boil the mussels in it.

6. (Sauce) for oysters: pepper, lovage, yolk of egg, vinegar, liquamen, oil and wine. If you wish, add honey.

7. (Sauce) for all kinds of shellfish: pepper, lovage, parsley, dried mint, lots of cumin, honey, vinegar, liquamen. If you wish, add a bayleaf and folium indicum.


  • 2 kilo (4 pounds) mussels
  • Cooking liquid
  • 150 gr (1⅔ cup) young leeks in small rings
  • 1 dl (½ cup) each of dry white wine,
    passuma modern version of this raisin wine is the Italian dessert wine "Vin Santo"
    and water
  • ½ dl garum or liquamen fish sauce
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 or 3 sprigs
    (or 1 tsp dried)

For the Lovage sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp chopped lovage leafs
  • lots of freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 raw egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ Tbsp white wine
  • 1 tsp garum sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 dl (½ cup) olive oil

For the Cumin sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp garum sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • ½ tsp chopped
    Lovage Levisticum officinale. An umbelliferous plant (like wild celery and parsley) that was popular in the classic Roman kitchen, and still used in the Middle Ages. You can grow it in your garden. When flowering, it can grow as tall as 2 meters. The taste is rather overbearing, use it in small amounts. It is very nice in stock.
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley


  • 1 Bayleaf
  • Folium indicum Aromatic leaf of a special kind of cinnamon tree, Cinnamomum tamala. It is still used in the indian cuisine, in some pulaos and byriani. Since it is optional in the original recipe, you can leave it out.


Preparation in advance

Prepare the lovage sauce in the same way as you prepare a mayonnaise:

  • mix egg yolk with vinegar, pepper and honey
  • add the olive oil in a small trickle while whisking well.
  • When the sauce has the thickness of mayonnaise, stop adding oil.
  • You may need more or less the given amount of oil.

Prepare the cumin sauce by simply mixing all the ingredients together. The vinegar is not mentioned in the original recipe — Flower and Rosenbaum added it because of a German study from 1927 (E. Brandt, Untersuchungen zum römischen Kochbuche).


  • Clean the mussels thoroughly and throw away any that are open.
  • Put everything for the cooking liquid in a pan big enough to hold all the mussels (even after they all have opend up!). and cover closely with a folded damp tea-towel.
  • Bring to the boil, add the mussels, and cook for about 5-7 minutes until the shells open (discard any that do not open).
  • Remove the mussels from their shells, and keep them warm.

To serve

  • You can place the cooking pan with the mussels on the table for a rustic meal.
  • Place the two sauces alongside the pan.
  • Dip the de-shelled mussels in one of the sauces.
  • Serve the mussels with bread, for example ciabatta or better, a Roman bread.
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