Pandora’s stories: Black Broth

Black Broth
Remember what Herodotus tells us about what happened after the battle of Plataea:
It is said that Xerxes on his retreat from Greece left his tent with Mardonius. When Pausanias saw it … he summoned Mardonius’ bakers and cooks and told them to prepare a meal of the same sort as they were accustomed to prepare for their former master. The order was obeyed; and when Pausanias saw … everything prepared for the feast with great magnificence, he could hardly believe his eyes … and just for a joke ordered his own servants to get ready an ordinary Spartan dinner. The difference between the two meals was indeed remarkable … Pausanias laughed … saying ‘[behold] the folly of the Persians who, living in this style, came to Greece to rob us of our poverty.’

Recipe for Spartan Black Broth melas zomos (μέλας ζωμός)

It is an acquired taste. Contemporary non-Spartan Greeks with an excess of curiosity ask cooks to produce a dish of it for them to try. Upon tasting it, one ancient food critic spat it straight back out, while another commented, ‘Now I understand why the Spartans do not fear death.”
Unfortunately (or perhaps it might be more fitting to say, fortunately) the original recipe for the dish has been lost but we do know it contains at least the following ingredients:

Boiled pigs’ legs

Below, we offer one possible (and entirely untested!) reconstruction of the recipe. [The recipe is based partly on dinuguan, a Filipino blood stew.] If you are vegetarian or cannot eat pork, please substitute ingredients where necessary.

500g* offal (eg lungs, kidneys, intestines, ears, heart and snout)
OR thinly sliced bacon/pork mince
300ml pork blood OR black pudding and water [blitzed together in a food processor]
250 ml vinegar
8g powdered gelatine
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
……………………………… If you are a real Spartan, you will not add any of the ingredients below this line.
……………………………… If you are sane, you will definitely add the ingredients below this line.
1 medium sized onion, chopped finely
1 tbsp garlic, chopped finely
1½ tbsp brown sugar
1 stock cube

With the olive oil, sauté the garlic and onion in a deep pan.
Add the pork and sauté for about 5 mins, then simmer.
Add the pork blood and mix well.
Add the vinegar. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the brown sugar and stock cube, and simmer for 2 minutes.
Hydrate the powdered gelatine and add to the mixture.
Serve hot.

Enjoy your meal! 😉