No Flummery, tell me what you think!

I AM being quite sincere about this, I think there should be more flummery on our dining tables.

It’s nothing to do with being polite about the food and murmuring meaningless praise but the dish itself. It’s as old as the hills but hasn’t been seen around much since Victorian times.

Flummery is what you get if you mix oatmeal with some water, let it sit for a couple of days, strain off the liquid and boil it down then pour it into a dish to set, which it will.

I have been fascinated by flummery ever since reading a brief account on page 521 of Dorothy Hartley’s excellent Food In England (1954) which, if you haven’t got means you are not a proper ‘foodie.’

Here is the recipe she quotes from 1700.
“To make a pretty sort of Flummery. Put three handfuls of fine oatmeal into two quarts of water, let it steep a day and a night then pour off the clear water through a fine sieve and boil it down until it is as thick as hasty pudding. Put in sugar to taste and a spoonful of orange flowerwater. Put in a shallow dish to set for your use.”

And that is what I did although I scaled quantities down to two tablespoons of porridge oats, not oatmeal, in 450ml (one pint) of cold water and left it in the fridge for over two days as I quite forgot about it.

I boiled the clear liquid down by two thirds. It didn’t taste of much, just faintly oaty, but perked up with the juice of an orange, seeds from two green cardamom pods and a dessert spoonful or two of sugar.

It’s not bad, reminding me of blancmange. All the oats do, of course, is provide a setting agent. The flavourings are up to you. I have seen recipes where cream and eggs are added but that would up the calory count.

Flummery is known by many other names. A ‘Wash Brew’ from 1623 was made the same way, adding honey for flavour. Hartley herself suggests boiling with butter and milk, after steeping and straining, until it reaches the consistency of double cream.

“Continue to cook it slowly and rest a little on a cold plate, and when it ‘sets’ pour it into shallow bowls. It is a pleasant, roughish brown cream like junket and makes a cool summer breakfast cereal – with cream and sugar.”

I am going to keep on experimenting with this. The quantities I used only make enough for one dish. But it strikes me there must be a restaurant kitchen out there which can see the possibilities. And just think of the mark-up for a handful of oats.

I almost hate to say this but it is one dessert which can be totally vegan.

Give it a try. It hardly takes much effort. Then tell me what you think. And, please, no flummery about this flummery if you don’t like it.


It sets like blancmange

Boondi for breakfast


Sugar Puffs without the wheat

If it’s Monday it’s Boondi for breakfast. And very possibly on Tuesday as well. I seem to have invented Britain’s newest breakfast cereal but I doubt it will transform me into the Twenty-First Century version of Mr Kellogg but it does mean I can eat my very own ‘Sugar Puffs.’

 Perhaps invention is a little too strong but I have certainly given an Anglo tweak to an Indian food you very rarely see in restaurants. I came across it when invited to a Hindu festival in Sheffield and the food afterwards included what looked like puffed wheat or rice in a sauce of watery yoghurt. This, I was told, was Boondi. It was pleasant: savoury but low key in flavour and I thought little more about it.

 Then I came across packets of it at my local Indian shop which I visit for my lottery ticket, big bags of  cashew nuts, poppadoms, spices and the like.  I always like to browse the shelves and pick up a packet of this or that to try back home.

 Boondi isn’t wheat or rice but made with chickpea (basen) flour so if you like breakfast cereals but are gluten intolerant this would be ideal. It is whisked into a thin batter with water and dropped through a kind of spatula with circular holes into boiling oil. If you get it right it forms perfect hollow spheres. Otherwise they look wobbly. For me, it’s easier to buy a packet, around £1.50 for 400g.

 You can get it roasted or spiced but I have only seen it plain. To be honest, it’s really bland. So I added some to the oats and nuts the next time I made some granola. It worked pretty well. Then I tried eating it like Sugar Puffs in milk with a sprinkling of sugar. Not bad. But I was convinced I could do even better. And I have.


Let the boondi cool before storing in a jar

 I gently heat a large heavy-based pan, melt some butter and honey, add some spice, stir in the Boondi and stir until every ‘grain’ is covered in the butter-honey-spice mix. Do all this on the lowest heat setting: you don’t want to fry. I add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon or two of icing sugar for extra sweetness, in much the same way as you make popcorn. And that’s it.

 Here’s the recipe:

 250g Boondi

30g butter (I used leftover brandy butter!)

1 tbsp honey

I tsp of cinnamon, cardamom or mixed spice

Pinch of salt to taste

Icing sugar to taste

Proceed as above. To avoid the cereal turning into a solid lump turn out onto a baking try lined with greaseproof paper and stir every so often until cold. This filled a one litre Kilner jar which you might have to shake firmly before tipping the cereal into your bowl. You might think making this is a bit nerdy but I do like DIY breakfasts.

 Indians use it to make a pudding, topping a layer of sweet boondi with a milk and breadcrumb mix and baking in the oven.


Look out for bags of boondi in an Indian store