Roman and Arab recipes share Med origins

Chefs face off in Naples for Med Cooking Congress

15 October, 20:02

    Roman and Arab recipes share Med origins Roman and Arab recipes share Med origins

    (di Francesco Tedesco) (ANSAmed)- NAPLES - ''The cuisine of Mediterranean countries has shared roots that come from the Romans, who were the first to codify the recipes and export them,'' chef Francesco Fichera noted during his speech at the Mediterranean Cooking Congress on Wednesday. The event on board Tirrenia vessels in the Naples port served as an opportunity for chefs from eight Mediterranean nations to exchange experiences and know-how for the preparation of dishes by chefs. ''The study of primordial cuisine,'' Fichera told ANSAmed, ''led me to work on the preparation of ancient dishes that were cooked directly on the flame, ashes and in wood-fired ovens, as well as on recipes, such as one by Marcus Gavius Apicius, who can be considered the first cook of antiquity to catalog his specialties.'' Of the dishes of the Roman Empire, Fichera cited one called 'Garum', which was the ''first recipe for seasoning and the ancestor of Cetara anchovies. Dishes seasoned with this sauce are also found in the traditions of countries in the Far East, which shows that culinary traditions spread even back then.'' Romans also made popular the use of the Cibarius, a sort of 'fresella' that was cut into two parts, with the upper, more friable part going to the patricians and the lower one going to the plebes. Fichera said that that the 'fresella' was ''characterized by a hole in the center, still found in the Apulia region ones.

    In those days it was needed for soldiers to be able to string them on ropes and bring them along on marches.'' 'Polentina', a ball of spelt in broth that evolved into modern-day dumplings made of leftover bread, was another dish exported by the Romans. ''All the ingredients - including meat and fish - that had been gathered during the day were put into the pot, giving birth to Spanish paella,'' Fichera said. Arab traditions heavily influenced Mediterranean cuisine, especially in Sicily, where horse meat - popular in Arab nations - is even now eaten. The contamination continues, as the three-day event in Naples clearly showed.

    ''I worked in many Spanish cities,'' said Carlos Pena, chef of the Spanish restaurant Milagros in Naples, ''prior to moving to Naples. We focus on quality and import rice from Spain that is the most suitable for our paella. The congress enabled me to exchange experiences with other chefs from across the Mediterranean and showcase my skills. It was a good opportunity to take advantage of, in a sector that may become the driving force behind Naples tourism.'' The exchange was invaluable, underscored Jorge Fernandes, chef of the restaurant Rio's in Lisbon's Oeiras area.

    ''The Mediterranean,'' he said, ''offers many opportunities, with products that are unique the world over. We chefs are tasked with safeguarding food heritage passed down over thousands of years by studying, keeping abreast of what's new and exchanging experiences with others.'' The next Cooking Congress will be held in October 2015 in Croatia. ''We are proud to host it,'' said Andrej Barbieri from the Bevanda restaurant in Opatijia, the city that will host the second edition,'' and will get restaurant owners and producers from the area involved.'' (ANSAmed).

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