Sea Bream with dates – cumin – pine nuts (Roman Cookbook of Apicius)

This fish recipe is part of a collection of ancient Roman recipes found in the ‘Cookbook of Apicius’. Most dishes in this cookbook are well-balanced, tasty and surprisingly modern! Roman cuisine frequently combined sweet and hearty ingredients. Dried dates were often added to their fish sauces as a binding ingredient.

The aromatic connections of this recipe from antiquity are especially unique. Sea Bream (dorade) and cumin have no direct aromatic match, but the inclusion of dates (which share citric aromas with both the sea bream and cumin) serve not only as a binding ingredient, but as a flavor bridge to this ancient Roman pairing.

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dorade aroma

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Sea Bream Fish

  • 1 sea bream, cleaned and deboned
  • 1.5 L water
  • 4–5 lovage leaves
  • ½ onion, coarsely cut
  • pepper and salt
  • a splash of fish sauce or garum

You’ll need a pot large enough to fit your entire sea bream. Fill it with water and then add the sea bream, together with the remaining ingredients. Boil the fish till tender and remove from the stove.


  • 20 g olive oil
  • 30 g onion, finely cut
  • 1 g cumin
  • 25 g mustard with seeds
  • 15 g red wine vinegar
  • 2 g fish sauce or garum
  • 35 g dates, cut into pieces
  • 50 g dorade
  • pine nuts, toasted

Sauté onions and cumin in olive oil. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and mix.

Plate your sea bream and finish with the sauce before garnishing with toasted pine nuts.

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Read more on the Cookbook of Apicius and Roman flavours

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Also try this Deer Stew with Coriander (from the oldest clay tablet cookbook in the world)

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