This is a recipe based on a very popular Roman sweet pastry which had the disgusting name of placenta (also the name for yukky afterbirth). It was like a lasagne made with a cheese and honey mixture layered with very thin pastry and baked in a pastry crust on a bed of bay leaves. We know this because Cato the Elder wrote the recipe down.
Our first attempts were based on this version, but it turned out very soggy and I could see why the original had a harder pastry crust.
It also reminded everyone of sausage rolls because of the bay leaves, which was a bit off-putting for some.
Next we tried making some little tarts using a spelt pastry case, but this was so crumbly they all fell apart. So finally we came up with this very easy recipe, which although is not entirely authentic, is probably enough to give you a taste of Ancient Rome (and is also quite yummy.)
Roman Honey Cakes
- 1 x 250g packet of short-crust pastry
- 250g ricotta cheese
- about 5 tablespoons of honey (according to taste)
First preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4. Lightly grease a 12 hole tart mould with a little butter or oil.
Roll the pastry out on a floured surface until it is nice and thin. Cut out some circles using a pasty cutter or an upside down glass. Press a circle in each hole of the tin.
Next, in a small bowl, gradually mix the honey into the ricotta. Keep tasting it until you think it has enough honey. Put a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into each of your tarts.
Bake in the oven until golden brown – approximately 15 – 20 mins.
Drizzle with some honey and decorate with some chopped nuts or toasted pine nuts (optional).
Wait until they are cool then try one!
These might have been served for dessert at a feast. You could put them on a plate with some grapes, figs and nuts and serve them at a feast of your own.