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Roman recipes
Patina de sambuco calida et frigida
(Patina or Custard of elderberries)

by Apicius IV, II, 135

The Elderberry has long been as comfortable in the kitchen as it is in the stillroom. It is versatile enough that there is a recipe for every palate. For centuries, this fruit, the berry of the Sambucus shrub, has been known as one of nature’s best for a variety of ailments. The scent of elderflowers is elegant, charming, and gives that extra oomph to one of the most classic desserts, making it fresh and seasonal.

The Romans, used it both as a medicine, but also also enjoyed it as a dessert. The sugared look is deceptive, however — raw elderberries are tart, not very appetizing, and must be cooked to come into their own. Though the fruit is small and inclined to be seedy, this slight drawback is outweighed by its distinctive fresh taste and its versatility in the kitchen.

Original recipe: "Patina de sambuco calida et frigida: accipies semen de sambuco, purgabis ex aqua decoques, paulum exsiccabi, Patina perunges et in Patina compones ad surcellum. Adicies piperis scripulos vi, sufundes liquamen, pstea adicies liquaminis cyathum unum, vini cyathum, passi cyathum, teres, tandum in Patina mittes olei inc. iv, pones in thermospdio t facies ut ferveat, Cum ferbuerit, franges postea ova vi, agitabis et Patina sic obligabis. Cum obligaveris, piper asperges et inferes."

Translation: Hot or cold elderberry patina: take elderberries, clean and boil in water. Allow to dry a little. Grease a "patina"pan and push the elderberries in the pan with a twig. Add 7g pepper, pour in a little " followed by 45 ml "garum," 45 ml wine, 45 ml "passum." Grind. Finally add 27g oil tothe pan and place in a bain-marie until it boils. When it is boiling, break six eggs over it , and beat while the "patina" binds. When it has bound, sprinkle with ground peper and serve.

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  • 6 bunches of elderberries
  • ½ tsp (2.5ml) pepper
  • 1 tsp (5ml) garum
  • 4 fl oz (125ml) wine
  • 4 fl oz (125ml) passum
  • 4 fl oz (125ml) olive oil
  • 6 eggs


  • Remove the fruits from the stems of the elderberry bunches with a fork.
  • Wash them, place in a saucepan with a little water, and simmer gently until just softened.
  • Drain and arrange in a greased shallow pan.
  • Add the pepper, moisten with garum, then add the wine and passum and mix well.
  • Finally, add the olive oil and bring to the boil.
  • When the mixture is boiling, break the eggs into it and stir well to bind it together.
  • When set, sprinkle pepper over it and serve hot or cold.
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