Banquets and Gourmet: The Lucullan in You?

Published on 13 June 2021 at 11:10

It was not too long ago on a Sunday, that myself and a friend decided to embark on a cooking escapade. This, by all standards of food for 2 people, was going to be no ordinary food adventure: quite the contrary, no rustic pasta dish nor simple crusted John Dory bake for we fine few.


We more than indulged ourselves with the notoriously lavish ‘Foie Gras’ which for those who have never heard of it before, is a forced fed goose’s liver, not exactly ethical, but ethics was far from what our minds were set on; indulgence was more our tune. Along with our foie gras, we decided to get some pork shoulder, with that almost perfect thick fatty layer, which was almost too good of an opportunity to pass down to make the most crispy of pork crackling.


Despite all the heartburn that accompanied our selection of meat, we did of course avail of some vegetables, with most particular importance pertaining to roasted onion beneath the pork shoulder and whole bulbs of garlic, easily sautéed courgettes with pancetta and cherry tomatoes, Jamie Oliver’s Cannellini beans in a sage and garlicy potato puree.


We of course took no exception with our choice of drinks. We had a particularly good Alsace Gewurztraminer, which was nearly finished even before we sat down to eat. We also enjoyed a good Spanish Tempranillo that was perfectly inoffensive, both good for cooking and drinking. Of course, the execution of all this, admittedly was not perfect (in fact far from it). We were probably too giddy to pay attention to detail, but also far too giddy to care much about such things. Therefore, I beg the question to you, after all this lockdown business, is it time to release all that built up tension with an over-the-top indulgent banquet with friends?


Inspiration for such bursts of decadence came from a place one must certainly start, ‘Larousse Gastronomique’. A book that is practically a bible for professional chefs and the humble home cook. From the history of extravagant food to the preparation of commonly used fish and shellfish, Larousse Gastronomique has it all. That is where we found our calling to cook our Foie Gras with a wine-soaked sultanas.


By far the easiest recipe to accomplish for the Foie and most likely the healthiest, even though the amount of duck fat required was certainly belt bursting, and it probably did not help that after half a bottle of wine each, we were a bit heavy handed with our seasoning, but I digress. Searing Foie Gras is a smell to behold, its gamey-ness quickly turns to this rich aroma. Along with a sauteed white onion, bouquet garni, diced tomatoes, white wine, your madeira-soaked sultanas, you create this amazing reduction that you will strain.


Once strained, returning your foie to your reduction to soak up all that flavour, following Larousse it is strongly advised to fry some croutons in duck fat. The royal “we” also strongly endorses such a garnish. Again, to state, Alsace wine with this was ever so good. Arthur Metz Gewurztraminer, €14.99 in a SuperValu near you, may be dear for the frugal out there, but get it, it is worth it believing me, fizzy and fruity.


The pork shoulder was much more easily approachable. Using a large roasting tray, place as many whole red onions and garlic bulbs in it as possible, with a generous dash of olive oil and seasoning. Score your pork shoulder to your liking, and again rub thoroughly with olive oil and plenty of seasoning. This is a Jamie Oliver recipe, and of course he always has an interesting twist to his dishes, with this dish of course being no exception. After roasting your pork shoulder for around 40 mins depending on its size at 200 degrees Celsius, take it out and pour red wine vinegar around the pork. This really brings out the taste of the roasted onions and garlic and will give you that extra something if your making a gravy for such roast.


To depart a small bit, let us discuss something in relation to the article title, what it means to be a Lucullan. Lucius Licinius Lucullus was a Roman politician and general who, in a great war, subjugated most of eastern Anatolia, which would today be known as Turkey and parts of Armenia. Following is many victories against the king of Pontus, Mithridates IV, Lucullus became entranced with eastern culture and gastronomy, and returned to Rome with piles of gold, exotic animals, and foods along with a large knowledge of how to prepare such new feasts.


Lucullus’s banquets became such an event in his time, that all the great families of the Roman aristocracy would try to curry favour with Lucullus to be invited. So lavish and involved was Lucullus in such food items, his name derived the word ‘Lucullan’ which means the luxurious and gourmet in relation to food and lifestyle. Although Lucullus would probably rather be remembered for his military exploits, the food interests is certainly way more interesting. If there was one thing that Lucullus and the Romans understood very well, it was that to eat lavishly, do it with others, anything short of a dinner with friends is a bad habit.


Therefore, whenever next the restrictions are loosened around household visits, why not get cooking for yourself and others? Get that great bottle of wine you always like, and most certainly others will too, or whatever you like to drink for such expedient occasions. Unleash the inner lucullan inside you, and relish in the lavishness of living throughout the summer.

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