Pullum Frontonianum (Chicken a la Fronto) – Part 2

And so to the cooking of the chicken in the name research for Archaeologist T. That rainy weekend we hastened to Cirencester and having paused briefly at a local butcher selling free range chicken, we hurried on to Waitrose where we knew an organic beast would be waiting.

Pullum Frontonianum

Artist impession of how Pullum Frontoniaum may have looked in olden Roman times

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Skill level: Easy
Serves: 4-6 people, or one person over a week


  • 1 free range organic chicken – 1.5 kg approx
  • olive oil – 100ml
  • liquamen – 200ml (or 200ml wine + 2 tsp salt)
  • 1 ‘branch of’ leek – chopped
  • fresh dill, saturei, coriander, pepper to taste
  • defrituma – little bit of (or 200ml of red grape juice – reduced)


Right, let’s start by defining some of these ingredients.

Liquamen: A salty fish sauce. However, the thing to remember about Liquamen is that in fact it would not have tasted very fishy. Some suggest for 2 oz (50 ml) Liquamen substitute 1/2 tsp salt plus 2 oz (50 ml) white wine.

Saturei: No direct English translation although in Latin it’s called ‘Satureia Hortensis’. It’s a violet or white flowered kind of labiate plant which grows mainly in Southern Europe. It’s used as a spice plant, especially in bean dishes. No real substitute then.

Defrituma: A thick syrup made from grape juice (aka grape must) which was boiled in a lead pot until it had reduced by one-half. Some food sources today see this as a predecessor to balsamic vinegar. As a substitute for this lead-infused toxin I’d suggest using fig or grape syrup or possibly the grape juice concentrate used in winemaking. However, we rather cleverly reduced down some grape juice.

Chicken browning

Mix together the white wine and salt.

Heat a good slug of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken. Pour over some (half) of the salty wine mixture and gently brown the chicken – gradually turning through 360 degrees to ensure an even colour.

Remove the chicken from the heat and stuff with some of the leek and herbs.

Scatter the remaining leek on the bottom of a large oven-proof dish (or idealy a rare and intact cumana) and place the chicken on top. Pour over the remaining wine mixture and herbs.

Place in a pre-heated (220 C) oven for the prescribed time – a 1.75kg = 1 hour 40 minutes.

Grape juice reduction

Meanwhile make your Defritum by simmering the grape juice until reduced to a thick sticky goo.


It’s burgundy, it’s grapey, it sticks to the platey – it’s defritum

When the chicken is done, moisten a plate with Defritum, put chicken on it, sprinkle pepper on it, and serve.

Pullum Frontonianum

Out of the oven, before plating up

Pullum Frontonianum

Sitting proudly by the herb garden on Gwydwr’s nice Quimper plate


Verdict: It was delicious, moist, lightly herby and full of flavour. The leeks in the basting liquid were a superb addition, though to be sampled sparingly as they were exceptionally salty, but went very well with the chicken. Blogger D hadn’t eaten chicken in a very long time, having sworn off the stuff unless it was organic free-range. Blogger R doesn’t eat animal, so Blogger D was left to have chicken sandwiches all week, much to her delight.

Drink: Some fine ales during the cooking and some Kingston filtered water during the eating.

Entertainment: Father Ted on dvd, or the Guardian website.


  1. Wow! Ancient. 😉

    Looks delicious. Could fish sauce have been used for the “liquamen” portion of the recipe? Not a “fish” flavor, per se, but very salty as well.

  2. Hi ts

    It seems Liquamen didn’t taste very fishy, so probably not. Besides, if you use wine you get to drink the rest of the bottle.


  3. I happen to be rereading “I, Claudius” at the moment, and so this dish is especially evocative. Lovely colours.

  4. This is great info to know.

  5. Could I use a photo or two of your Chicken Fronto? Full credit and link of course. I have it here: and need better pix, of which I am not good at. Maybe re-writing some of the text to go with.

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