Winter Breakfast: Frumenty

I’m really sad that I decided to upload this. I’d been under the impression that the dish I’ve eaten for breakfast throughout each winter was some strange concoction of my family. I’d assumed that this habit of chomping on boiled pearl barley throughout December and January was a habit of the wise penny-pinching North Yorkshire farmers that form my mum’s side of the family. I’d never seen or heard of this amazing ‘frummity’ food elsewhere.

And now I find out that it’s supposedly spelt ‘frumenty’ and has a bloody Wikipedia page that describes it as a “a popular dish in Western European medieval cuisine”. Why do I always have to research the background? I was happier when I thought it was a sign of a weird quirk in my family’s upbringing rather than a sign that rural tastes haven’t developed since the early 14th century.

How Geoffrey of Monmouth started his day.

Anyway for a tasty, filling and cheap winter breakfast do the following:

  1. Buy a bag (500g-ish) of Pearl Barley, put it in a sieve and rinse it with a kettle of boiling water to get rid of scum.
  2. Put it a large ovenproof dish such as a pyrex/casserole dish. Cover with loads of cold water until it looks as though it’s drowning. Add salt.
  3. Put in oven at about 110C and leave it to cook for about three hours, checking that there’s enough water – keep stirring and add more water if required to keep it moist.
  4. After this you’ve got a supply of medieval breakfast fayre yummy pearl barley that will last for ages, just keep it in the fridge and take some out of the dish when required.

A big dish of frumenty waiting to be eaten.

Although it only actually tastes nice with the addition of a few extra ingredients.

To serve, stick a bowl of it in the microwave for ninety seconds until piping hot. Then pour double cream all over it. (Or some low fat alternative if you’re boring and hate tasty things – but this is a pre-reformation dish big on decadence so followers of Luther can piss off). Then add a big dollop of Lyle’s golden syrup while considering the beauty of the colonial-era tin, packaging so beautiful that eighteen British soldiers died at the 1873 battle of Rumbabaland rather surrender their treasured supplies. Then add another spoonful of Lyle’s golden syrup, just to be sure it’s nice and sweet. Add some mixed spices if your taste goes beyond ‘sugar’ and ‘sweet’ to ‘mildly tangy’ and some raisins, etc, if you want to pretend that this dish is vaguely healthy.

And eat. Om nom nom.

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4 Responses to Winter Breakfast: Frumenty

  1. rugosa says:

    omfg. breakfast with the watersons.

  2. Fuchsia says:

    i miss frumenty :(

  3. Fionna says:

    My mum used to make it with creed wheat and sultanas, and somehow an egg and whole milk. But she can never remember the details and it never sounds quite right to me. So yummy and satisfying and better than porridge. Go the golden syrup though, my Dad used to say golden syrup was an ANZAC/ kiwi thing but obviously a Brittish colonial thing. Never seen it in an American recipe though.

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