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This page last modified October 16, 2005

Cooking from Anthimus

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Sweet and sour braised beef

recipe interpretations by Heather Rose Jones, copyright 2005

This is the most elaborate and specific description in Anthimus. Not all the ingredients are easy to get. In my early experiments I was able to include costmary as I was growing it in my garden at the time. It didn't come back one spring and I haven't gotten around to finding a replacement yet ... and it isn't something you can find at your local spice rack. In later experiments, I've included spikenard, but have only been able to get my hands on a New World variant of the plant, rather than the species that Anthimus would have intended. For my own experiments I used pennyroyal, as given in the original. My decision to substitute a different mint when cooking for the general public is due to a number of heated discussions I've encountered regarding herbalists' warnings that pennyroyal oil is an abortifacient. Although I believe that there is a great deal of over-reaction over the topic, there seemed enough of a chance that I would unintentionally cause someone emotional distress that I decided to dodget the problem entirely.

The basic outline in the original text:

Experiment 1

Methods as given above. The cooking was done in an enamelled cast-iron skillet (covered).

Ingredients and amounts

I skipped the pre-boiling stage, on the assumption that this was required only for tougher cuts of meat than I was using. The results seem to bear out this interpretation.

Simmer 60 minutes.

The above ground in a mortar with the wine; the results and the honey added to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes while repeatedly turning the meat. Strain the sauce and serve over the meat.


The meat was a little dry, but that is to be expected with the cooking method -- the original would likely have used a fairly tough cut of older meat. The sauce is delicious -- mostly sweet-and-sour but with a complex spicing. The spices are definitely "there". Next time, maybe go heavier on the volitile spices.

Experiment #2

(trying for a more strongly flavored sauce)

(the liquid was almost gone after 1/2 hour of cooking, so I added another 1/2 c. each vinegar and water)

As before -- this time I reground the sauce in a mortar before straining it over the sliced meat.


The meat was cooked thoroughly (no pink) and falls apart nicely but is not dry. The sauce is noticably sharp -- too sharp, I'd say. The flavor may be too strong. I'd like to see the same balance of spices with half the vinegar. I can't detect any one flavor predominting. The honey, however, is much less noticable, which is nice. some aftertaste. Try cutting down on the celeriac, but it's hard to tell what would be best to alter.

Experiment #3

Just for fun, as a beef jerky marinade!

marinade -- combine ingredients in a blender and puree:

Blend, then put in a shallow container with the meat. Refrigerate, stirring daily, for 5 days. Dry the jerky in a drier or very slow oven.


Absolutely delicious, if very different from the usual expectation for jerky. Noticably vinegary.

Experiments #4A-C

(Not full recipes -- experimenting with some specific parameters)

A. (a slightly smaller proportion of sweetening)

This amount covers the meat about halfway, you need to turn it regularly while it cooks.



I didn’t take any notes at the time, but this proportion of vinegar worked very well and the chuck roast was nicely moist.

B. (Trying a nicer cut of meat)

Simmer in the above ingredients for 2 hours.


Simmer together 1 to 1.5 hours.


The meat was rather tough and dry this time. I don’t think it was only adding the honey for the first part of the cooking. This recipe seems to need a certain amount of marbling in the meat to work well, and london broil is just too lean.

C. (pre-slicing experiment)

Simmer 2 hours


Slice the meat before returning it to the sauce.

Simmer ca. 1 hour.


This was to test slicing the meat before the finishing session, since that would make the dish much more convenient to serve at a large dinner. The tri-tip (which has a fair amount of marbling) was properly moist. Slicing in mid-process worked fairly well, although it made the pieces a little more prone to fall apart. Otherwise, this worked similarly to A above.

Overall Analysis So Far

I've done several more batches basically following recipie #2 but backing off a little on the vinegar. It seems to work better on a thicker piece of meat -- the meat is moister, although the sauce doesn't penetrate as much in cooking. When the sauce is pureed before being strained for serving it has a much more syrupy consistancy and covers the meat better. My overall goal was for a sauce where no one flavor predominates but where the spices are more noticable than the basic honey-vinegar flavor. This goes very nicely with Anthimus's recipie #71 (millet cooked in milk and water).

Collegium Version

When cooking for the collegium dinner, I made some changes to the order of preparation for logistical reasons. In particular, I pre-cooked the meat in water and vinegar only, then on the day of the dinner I sliced the meat cold, heated the broth with the honey and (pre-prepared) vegetable ingredients, and then when the broth was slightly reduced, added the spices and meat to finish it off.

Test version (serves approx. 6 people)

Prepare and chop or grate:

Grind together:

In a shallow pan, combine:

Simmer for one hour.

For the collegium dinner, at this point I removed the meat and chilled both the meat and broth until the day of the dinner. Then I sliced the meat. If you are serving this at a smaller dinner, you can slice the meat at the table and should proceed immediately to the next step.

To the broth add:

Simmer until the vegetables are becoming mushy, then add:

Continue cooking until the liquid reduces to a syrup. Turn the meat constantly during this process so that the sauce penetrates it. Serve with the sauce.

The 50-person version (prepared in 5 sub-batches for convenience) used:


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