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Barley soup

Tisanam vel sucum

from Galen, quoted in Orbiasius’ Medical Compilations

Ptisana was one soup that was very high-calorie, but healthful, especially compared to other typical Roman cuisine. Based with barley; this was left to soak in cold water for 24 hours, Then chickpeas, lentils, peas were added.

Soups and such constituted the normal meal of the lower classes, as the price of the ingredients was much lower and affordable, compared to other genres, such as meat and fish, which were usually only found on the tables of the rich.

Original recipe: Tisanam sic facies: tisanam lavando fricas, quam ante diem infundes. impones supra ignem calidum. cum bullierit, mittes olei satis et anethi modicum fasciculum, cepam siccam, satureiam et coloefium, ut ibi coquantur propter sucum. mittes coriandrum viridem et salem simul tritum et facies ut ferveat. cum bene ferbuerit, tolles fasciculum et transferes in alterum caccabum tisanam sic, ne fundum tangat propter combusturam. lias et colas in caccabulo supra acronem coloefium. teres piper, ligusticum, pulei aridi modicum, cuminum et silfi frictum, [ut bene tegatur], suffundis acetum, defritum, liquamen, refundis in caccabum super coloefium acronem, ‹ut bene tegatur›. facies ut ferveat super ignem lentum.

Translation: Pearl barley is suitably prepared when it is swelled to its fullest extent during boiling, then after this put on a gentle flame until it has wholly converted into juice. There it is mixed with it vinegar at that moment when it has completely swelled; when it is carefully boiling one must add fine salt, but not too much, for edibility; and if you wish to add olive oil at once from the start, you will not harm the cooking; it is not necessary to mix in anything else but a little leek and dill, and these right from the beginning


  • 5 oz pearl barley
  • 1 leek
  • 1 t. dried (or fresh) dill weed
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 2 T. white wine vinegar
  • Sea salt


  • Soak the barley overnight.
  • Drain.
  • Slice the leek.
  • Place the barley, leek, dill, and olive oil in a pan with 2 pints of water.
  • Bring to a boil, add the vinegar, and simmer gently for an hour.
  • Stir occasionally and check that there is sufficient water.
  • This soup is supposed to be very thick, so add water a little at a time.
  • Before serving, check that the soup is suitably seasoned with salt.
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