“De re coquinaria”, or “On the subject of cooking” was the overall title of a Roman collection of recipes, APICIUS.
It is thought to have been written somewhere around the 4th or 5th century A.D. by a roman gourmet lover and was ment to be used in the kitchen! It was organised in 10 books, under 10 themes (fisherman, gourmet, many ingredients, gardener etc) It is a very useful text as it enables us to take a glimpse into the culinary habits of the ancient times for the people residing around the Mediterranean basin.
There are no tomatoe recipes, no pasta but there are a couple of what can be thought as a meatball recipe.
Apicus, mentions round meat patties, and lists their recipes in order of his preference. The best, says Apicius were made of peacock after which he enjoyed meatballs made of pheasant, then rabbit, then chicken and, last, suckling pig.
Of course at the older days, meat was a rare commodity reserved for the rich.
As such, every part of the animal and all kinds of meat were preserved and used.
But lets not forget that meatballs started loooong before the meat grinder was invented in 1829.
The meat would often have to have been cooked. The leftover were then easily shredded by hand, minced in any number of primitive ways, or pounded with a heavy object. They would be mixed with other ingredients and cooked.
During the Venetian golden years, meatballs were heavily spiced, as the trade with the Arabs brought spices and flavors of the East to Europe.
Easy as they are, they can be vary tasty and a nice appetizer or main dish for a warm summer dinner accompanied by a nice salad with a light vinegraitte.
So, I decided to bake some meatballs.
Since I had pre-prepared the mix (minced meat,finely chopped onion, bread crumbles and fresh mint leaves) the day before and let it in the fridge so that the aromas from the herbs would infuse the meat, the only thing left to do would be shaping the little balls, rolling them in flour and frying them!
Adding a bit of lemon and they were ready to serve!
In China, meatballs are morphed into fishballs, which can be a nice alternative for a lighter dinner or for our vegeterian friends!