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This page last modified October 16, 2005

Cooking from Anthimus

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"Afrutum" or "Spumeum"

recipe interpretations by Heather Rose Jones, copyright 2005

This dish (or type of dish) is mentioned in two places: paragraph 34 under fowl dishes, and paragraph 40 under fish dishes. The first has a very sketchy description:

Paragraph 40 notes that pike is good for spumeum and that it should be soft rather than hard.

This isn't a lot of information to go on, but both the focus on light-fleshed meats (chicken, pike, scallops) and the names ("foam", "snow balls") suggest that a fluffy, light, essentially white dish is intended. The egg whites are clearly intended to be whipped. (Note that it's quite possible to whip egg whites "until stiff" with a hand whisk. It takes longer than by machine, of course, and you end up with very strong wrist muscles.)

For the honey-wine sauce, I used a red wine simply for the contrast in color, and cooked the sauce to remove the alcohol (for legal reasons, since I intended to serve minors) as well as to thicken it.

Experiment #1 (Fish)



until it flakes easily. Mash it into a paste.

Reduce the remaining broth to about half its original volume and add:

Set aside.


untill stiff. Add the fish to it through a sieve, mixing carefully.

In a shallow pan, mix:

and reduce to a thick sauce (about half its original volume) and set aside.

Heat the reduced fish broth in a shallow pan (e.g., frying pan) until it simmers. Spoon the egg white mixture into the hot broth. Turn the “snowballs” as they cook until done. (Firm to the touch.) Serve with the honey-wine sauce.


The “snowballs are good, if bland -- basically a fish omelette. The sauce was much too salty, although edible.

Experiment #2 (Chicken)

Cook a whole chicken breast (and back) in water to cover. Remove and chill both items separately. De-fat the broth. Remove the meat from the breast and chop coarsely. Return the bones to the broth, re-heat the broth and simmer until it reduces to about 2 cups. During this process, add a quartered onion and cook until tender then remove. Strain the broth and add 1 tsp. Fish sauce (Thai fish sauce).

Note: based on the extremely bland taste of exp. #1, I decided to add some onion to the dish, justified by paragraph #55 where Anthimus notes "... leeks may be added in the preparation of all foods".

For this experiment, I took

Puree it in a food processer. (The whole breast produced about 10 oz of meat.)


until stiff but not dry and fold into the chicken-onion mixture. I made one snowball from this stage then whipped a second egg white, folded it in, and made the rest from that.


into the bottom of a baking pan. Spoon the egg-chicken mixture into the pan, forming six rounded mounds. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Actually, I started off at 300F, mis-remembering that that was a usual souffle temperature, then looked up the usual souffle temperature and increased the heat about 10 minutes into the process.

At the end of 20 minutes, most of the loose liquid in the pan had either evaporated or been absorbed. It looks like it’s important not to let it dry out.

Transfer the snowballs to a dish and drizzle with the same honey-wine sauce as described in experiment #1.

For efficiency (and as an experiment towards the Collegium dinner) when I separated the egg whites, I carefully slipped the yolks into a bit of simmering broth to cover until cooked. The idea is that since Anthimus (in paragraph #36) recommends eating only the yolks of boiled eggs, so I can present these as the boiled yolks and serve them as an additional dish.


The single-egg version was fairly heavy and didn’t hold together well. It tasted good, though. The two-egg version was a slight bit fluffier and held together solidly. Not what I’d call “fluffy”, but definitely lighter. The overall flavor was extremely mild -- even bland. The sauce wasn’t too salty and the honey-wine sauce was definitely necessary.

It might be worth trying 3 whites to 4 oz. of chicken, but I’ll go with this for now.

Experiment #3 (Chicken)

At the dry-run session for the Collegium dinner, having decided that the basic recipie was entirely too bland, we experimented with adding some seasonings that seemed supportable from other recipes. We ended up with five variants, based on additions to one-fifth of the 5-person recipie.

The basic ingredients:

The five experimental additions:

Prepare as above.


The universal conclusion was that, although #5 wasn't noticeably "spiced", it was noticeably not "not spiced" and seemed like a good direction to go in.

Collegium Version (this batch size is intended to serve 5 people -- 10 batches of this size were prepared)

Sauce: in a shallow pan, combine

reduce to half that volume.

Take one half-breast of chicken (with bones and skin), place it in water to cover with one medium onion (peeled) and simmer until cooked. Remove the onion and chicken and chill both these and the broth overnight.

De-fat the broth. Remove the meat from the breast and set it aside with the onion. Return the bones and skin to the broth and simmer it until it reduces to about 1 1/2 cups. Add approx. 1 Tbsp fish sauce. This should be enough for a triple recipe as given here.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

In a food processor, combine:

and puree into a smooth paste.

Carefully separate:

Reserving the yolks unbroken. Whip the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold them gently into the chicken mixture.

In a pie plate or similar shallow baking dish, pour:

Spoon the afrutum mixture into the dish, trying to form distinct, high mounds. Think "snowballs".

Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes. The "snowballs" should be firm to the touch and just slightly beginning to brown at any peaks. Check the dish a couple times while it's cooking and add more broth if it begins to dry out.

While the afrutum is baking, heat more of your broth to a simmer and gently add the reserved egg yolks. Cook at a very low heat until done.

After removing the afrutum from the oven, arrange the cooked yolks around the "snowballs", and drizzle the wine-honey sauce around the dish.


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