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Caravaggio, Bachus (1595)

The painter

Caravaggio was born on September 29, 1571, in Lombardia, Italy. During his life, Caravaggio was considered enigmatic, fascinating and dangerous. He was only six when the bubonic plague killed almost all the men of his family, including his father. He grew contentious and aggressive. Considered a reckless spree, he lived in trouble with the police, no money and sought fights in the city in 1606, with a young man killed during a fight and ran away to Rome with price on his head. He passed Naples, after Malta and Sicily, where he painted screens transfigured lyricism, such as: The Resurrection of Lazarus (Messina), in which, under the fear of a huge empty space, a distance of oblique light seems to immobilize the sacred drama. Malta was involved in another fight, and another in Naples, possibly a premeditated attack on his life because of his actions, never identified by enemies. He died on July 19, 1610, in Italy.

The painting

    Bacchus   (1595) Caravaggio’s Bacchus from the sixteenth century shows a young Bacchus reclining classic stylish with grapes and vine leaves in his hair, touching the cord loosely draped his robe. On the stone table in front of him there is a fruit basket and a large jug of red wine; with his left hand, he offers the viewer a shallow cup of the wine, apparently inviting the viewer to join him. And, by the way, Bacchus was painted on oil.There is a light focusing on Bacchus reinforcing the contrast between him and the dark background.

Intentionally or not, there is humour in this painting. Bacchus’s rosy face is an accurate portrayal of a teenage half-drunk dress with a sheet lying on a mattress on the cardinal’s palace in Rome, but much less convincing as Greek – Roman god. Caravaggio’s use of criminals and prostitutes as models for his paintings is clearly seen in this painting. Fruit and Jug have attracted more attention from scholars than Bacchus himself. Fruits, because of the inedible condition of most items, are considered the most serious of critical spirit that mean the transience of worldly things. The pitcher because, after the painting was cleaned, it was discovered a tiny portrait of the artist working on his easel in the glass reflection. Bacchus’s face reflection can also be seen on the wine surface in the cup which he holds.

Common dishes of the 16th century

               Boiled beef (to serve with a glass of wine)

Peach tart (with the fresh fruit we can see in the painting)


Boiled beef ( Bacchus would like it with his glass of wine)


1 1¼kg joint silverside beef

2 good quality stocks (chicken, beef or vegetable)

2 carrots

1 leek

1 onion

2-3 turnip

½ small celeriac

few sprigs of fresh thyme and 2-3 bay leaves

4-5 star anise

4-5 cardamom pods

4-5 cloves

1 tablespoons coriander seed

½ tablespoon peppercorns

12 baby turnips

18 baby carrots

12 baby leeks

50g self-raising flour

125g shredded suet

1 tablespoon sea salt

3 rounded tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons of olive oil

4-5 star anise, peppercorns and thyme sprigs


Preparation in advance

  • Cut the beef into three or four chunky pieces, put in a large pan and just cover with cold water. Bring it quickly to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and, using a ladle, skim off any scum on the top. As you are doing this, you will also be removing some of the water. Pour in the stock, return it to the boil, and then turn to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, roughly chop the vegetables and add them to the pan with the sprigs of thyme and bay leaves. Season lightly.


Take a large square of muslin (or use a clean cloth), lay the spices in the middle and then tie up with kitchen string, like a money bag. Drop the bag into the pan and tie the bag to the handle. Simmer the beef (don’t let it boil) for about 2 hrs, until the meat feels tender when pierced with a sharp knife. If the stock reduces down too much, top it up with more water so the meat remains submerged.

While the beef is cooking, peel celeriac and cut into small sticks about 1cm thick. Halve turnips. Trim tops off the other vegetables, but don’t peel – there’s no need. Bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil and blanch vegetables for about 3 mins. Have ready a large bowl of ice-cold water and when the vegetables are just tender, drain them and tip immediately into the water. Leave for 2-3 mins, drain again and set aside. Also, while the beef is cooking, mix together the flour, suet, salt, a grinding of pepper and the parsley for the dumplings.

When the beef is cooked, remove the pan from the heat, then strain off and reserve the stock for cooking the dumplings and reheating the baby vegetables (you won’t use it all). Discard the vegetables and tip the beef into a baking dish. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Mix just enough cold water (about 200ml) into the flour and suet mix to make a soft dough. If the dough is too wet, it will be difficult to shape. Roll gently into 10-12 balls. Bring a shallow pan of water to the boil and add a couple of ladles of the stock plus the olive oil, the star anise, peppercorns and thyme sprigs. Using a slotted spoon, lower in the dumplings. Cover and simmer for about 12-15 mins, until risen and fluffy. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon.

Spoon about three ladles of stock into another pan, bring to a simmer and reheat the veg briefly. Remove with a slotted spoon. Strain the stock from the veg for serving.

Cut each beef chunk into slices and season lightly. Arrange in warmed serving dishes with the baby vegetables, celeriac and dumplings. Pour some stock over and serve.

To serve

It is really good when you eat it with pepper sauce.

Boiled beef must be eaten the same day you cook it and with a glass of wine.


Peach tart

(fruit was always a fine dessert especially when used to bake cakes)


5 peaches  1/4 cup red wine  3/4 cup sugar  1/2 tablespoon cinnamon  1/2 tablespoon. ginger  1/4 tablespoon salt.

Preparation in advance

This is an incredibly easy pie to make. Boiling the peaches before putting them in the pie seems a bit odd at first, but it allows the use of slightly under-ripe peaches and also reduces the baking time.

Peel peaches, remove pits, and slice. Make sure the peaches are in the season.


Parboil in water until just tender. Drain peaches well and place in pie crust. Make syrup of sugar, spices, and wine. Pour over peaches and cover with top crust, making a few slits in the top. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake until done, about 30-40 minutes more.

To serve

It was a great way to eat it as a fruit dessert in a cold winter day.

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