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

Not just a cheesy idea

USING up the Christmas leftovers takes time, doesn’t it? I’ve made pies, soups and curries from the remains of the turkey and ham but I was still left with the cheese.

In the fridge and freezer are little ramekins of potted ham, potted turkey and (I think) potted ham and turkey so why not potted cheese?

It’s easy to make and I’ve long known about the recipe given by Dorothy Hartley in her wonderful book Food In England. You’re not a proper foodie if you haven’t got a copy. I am not sure if it’s currently in print but it is available on Amazon.

Her recipe is for a pound of cheese (any or a variety) pounded up with half that of butter, an ounce of ground mace and a glass of sack (sherry). It is  potted, left and then “sliced for cream cheese.”

Luckily, these days we have the food processor. Translating this recipe, I found I had 100g of various blue cheeses which I cut up up small, rinds and all. That meant 50g of butter. I put in a half teaspoonful of mace, although you could use nutmeg, and pressed the button.

As it whirled around I poured in enough port (it seemed a better idea than sherry) to make a smooth paste.

It tastes good although I might have added more spice and a twist of pepper. Worth giving a go if you have five minutes to spare.

Christmas has gone to pot


Pot up your leftover ham or other meats

I just can’t let go of Christmas. I know I’ll still be eating it in March because it’s waste not, want not, in this house. The last of a turkey is in the pan on its way to becoming a curry. Its carcass made for a lovely turkey and pearl barley soup. Meanwhile I’ve had yet another ham sandwich but there’s still ham left over.

So I’ve potted it.

We seemed to have lost the art of potting meat at home but once it was normal, a way of using up leftover meat or extending the Sunday roast. It works for any kind of meat and is so simple it hardly needs a recipe.

Take a quantity of meat and chop it up, or tear it apart between two forks, very finely. You can use a blender but it turns stuff into a paste and we’re not out to rival Bingham’s or Sutherland’s spreads: we’re up for a little texture. It’s surprising what you can do with a sharp knife and a little patience.

Then you want to spice it up a little – mace (or nutmeg), mustard, salt and pepper is fine – mix it with a more or less equal quantity of melted butter and pack it into small containers. I used a couple of ramekins.

My recipe called for mustard seeds and powdered mace, mixed with a little cider vinegar. I guess you could use made mustard, such as Dijon, then you wouldn’t need the vinegar. My powdered mace hid from me in the spice cupboard so I had to pound a blade or two with the mortar and pestle: a long job! I also added some sweet paprika as it is currently my Spice of the Moment!

The recipe called for clarified butter so as I had about five ounces of ham I melted six ounces of butter and poured off the clear liquid, leaving the milky residue. Discard it, said my recipe. Now ‘discard’ is not a word heard much in my kitchen. There’s always a use for things. I poured it into a little jar and let it set, sort of.

I used it as a glaze on my milk bread loaf and on my toast the next day. Nowt wasted!

Back to the potted meat: I mixed most of the clarified butter with the finely chopped ham and spices (I also found a little curly parsley in the garden)and packed the mixture tightly in the little jars. I sealed it with the rest of the clarified butter, waited until set and popped them into the freezer. They should last for three months. Serve with toast and a few cornichons and some chutney as a starter.

Now this recipe is almost the same as that for potted kippers, see and I have my eye on one for potted cheese, taken from Dorothy Hartley’s ‘Food in England’ (1954). “Take 1 lb of old Cheshire Cheese, shave it very thin into a mortar, and put to it 1 oz of beaten mace, half a pound of butter and a glass of sack (sweet Spanish wine). Beat and grind all together, put into a pot and leave for a while, and cut it in slices for cream cheese.”

I think my modern day version will be bits of various cheeses, grated up, with not so much butter and tablespoon or so of port or dessert wine. I’ll keep the mace (I’ve found the powdered stuff!) and probably a little paprika. And this is probably best eaten after a day or so when flavours have melded.

Hardly recipes, are they? But they do come with one extra ingredient: a little smugness from not wasting a thing.


All you need: chopped meat, butter and spices