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Apician Prawns with Chickpea & Saffron Mash and Artolagana

The story behind this dish is as follows. Apicius, the renowned Roman gastronome to whom the most famous book on Roman food is attributed, adored large prawns. On being informed that the largest, most flavoursome prawns were to be had off the coast of Libya he set sail for the region. However, on arriving there he discovered, much to his disappointment, that the prawns were no larger or tastier than those of his own Minturnae. And so he returned home, empty handed.

This recipe is dedicated to Apicius and his love of prawns. It uses pepper, cumin and celery seed so frequently found in Roman food along with the ubiquitous fish sauce. The fried pasta is also laced with pepper giving this dish a delicious warmth.

Marinated prawns with chickpea & saffron mash and fried pasta (artolagana) inspired by Apicius

Apician Prawns (Serves 6)


1¼ tsp ground black pepper

1¼ tsp celery seed

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint

¾ tbsp cumin seed

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

25g honey (runny)

25ml white wine vinegar

25ml fish sauce

50ml olive oil

30 raw king prawns, pre-shelled & deveined

  1. Grind the herbs and spices. Mix with the honey, vinegar, fish sauce and oil. Place in a bowl with the raw king prawns and thoroughly coat. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour or longer if possible.

  2. To cook the prawns, heat a large skillet over a medium heat and cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute per side or until done. Alternatively, thread them onto metal skewers and grill for a couple of minutes each side or until they are done.

  3. To serve, place the prawns on top of a mound of chickpea and saffron mash.

Chickpea & Saffron Mash


75ml light olive oil

1 fat clove garlic, chopped

1 x 340g tin chickpeas, drained

½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 pinch of saffron

75ml white wine

½ tsp fine sea salt & a few generous grindings of black pepper (more if serving to a professional chef!)

A good squeeze of lemon juice

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Cook the garlic for 1 minute then add the spices, chickpeas, wine & salt. Bring to the boil and simmer 10 minutes. Place in a food processor or blender with the lemon juice then blitz until smooth. Add a little water if it seems too dry. Stir in the chopped parsley before serving (should be served at room temperature).

Artolagana (spiced fried pasta)

This recipe will make far more artolagana than you need but they will keep for several days in a sealed container.


200g wholemeal spelt flour plus a little extra just in case

1 teaspoons coarsely ground peppercorns

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

50-80ml red wine

50-80ml goat’s milk (or substitute cows milk)

Veg Oil for frying

  1. Place the flour, peppercorns and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, the gradually add the red wine and goat’s milk to the bowl (start with 50ml of each). Using your hands mix well to form a smooth dough (add more flour if the mixture is too sticky). It should come together in a ball and leave the sides of the bowl reasonably clean.

  2. Divide the dough in two. Cover one piece with clingfilm and roll out the other piece in a rough rectangle or square to a thickness of around 1-2mm. Use a 5cm square cookie cutter press out shapes from the dough. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet then shallow fry for 1-1½ minutes on each side. Drain on absorbent kitchen towel. Alternatively, cook in a deep fat fryer for around 2-2½ minutes. Can be served hot or cold.

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