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Red lentils and leeks
with sweet and spicy seasonings

Apicius V.II.3

Pottage of red lentils and leeks. A very popular dish at demonstrations. The sweet and spicy blend of seasonings it a perfect complement to the lentils. Lentils of different types were quite common in Roman Italy but we know of only one type in Britain from this period. An archaeological dig in London revealed the remains of burnt red lentils.

Serves 6 as a side dish

Original recipe:



  • ½ lb. brown lentils
  • 3 medium-sized leeks
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 heaped Tbsp. set honey
  • 1 Tbsp. defrutum
  • 1 oz. coriander seed
  • ¼ tsp. asafoetida powder
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh mint or 2 tsp dried mint
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • large handful green coriander (½ bunch), chopped
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh or dried rue
  • emmer flour to thicken
  • generous freshly ground pepper


  • Soak lentils in water overnight, drain and cover with fresh water, or you can use white wine instead for a richer mix.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer till just beginning to soften.
  • Add the cleaned and sliced leeks and continue cooking.
  • Add the olive oil, vinegar, honey and defrutum.
  • Dry-roast the coriander seeds and asafoetida, grind to a fairly coarse powder, add to the pan.
  • Add the dried mint (if using instead of fresh green leaves).
  • When fully cooked, add the fish sauce and the fresh coriander, rue and mint.
  • Bring back to heat, thicken with a little flour, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve.
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