Pliny was a most erudite chap, who used to publish his letters, which ranged in subject considerably – for example the most famous one was the account of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, visiting Pompeii when the volcano erupted and dying there; another was the account of the murder of a vicious and cruel master by his slave at a visit to the baths. My favourite, because it made me laugh, was the letter of reproach to a young man whom he had invited for dinner, but who had not arrived
I can’t find my copy of the letters, so I’ll have to give the gist. Maybe Dave or Dandelion can help out.
He told him the culinary delights on offer, such as an egg and a whole lettuce [each!!(!)]. He described the evening’s entertainments – after dinner, Pliny himself would have regaled him with readings from his own oeuvre. Instead, Pliny scornfully said, he evidently preferred another party, with honeyed larks’ tongues and figs*, followed by singing and performances by dancing girls.
*maybe, look, I took Latin A level in 1972
Anyway, the recipe I use for rice.
8 ounces (225 g) basmati rice
a little oil and butter
cardamon pods. I use about a dozen, but the recipe says 5 – 8
A piece of stick cinnamon – about 2 inches (5 cm)
A little more than 1/2 pint (300 ml) water
Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes, drain and rinse several times (Zain says that it’s a good idea to rinse it alternately in hot and cold water). Drain it finally, while you heat the oil and butter (I use very little of both, but the recipe says a tablespoon of each), add the cardamon pods and cinnamon stick, swish around, add the rice, water and salt. Bring to the boil, covered tightly, and cook on a low heat for 12-15 minutes until the rice is tender but still has a bite. Leave off the heat for a couple of minutes before turning it into a serving dish. I remove the cinnamon, but love to squeeze the cardamon seeds out of the pods and eat them.