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

Oats so simple


Just because I can I like to have something different for breakfast every morning of the week. And it’s got to be homemade.

So as I often bake my own bread and always make my own jams and marmalades that takes care of a couple of days. Bacon sandwich? It’s no problem turning a kilo of pork belly into bacon. It’s easy-peasy. And I’ve plenty of homemade brown sauce and Sheffield (Better Than Hendo’s) Relish.

But my secret weapon is oats. This grain is at the heart of three different breakfasts and with oats at £2 a kilo at Down To Earth on Sharrowvale Road I’d be daft not to. There’s porridge for a start but for a change try soaking the oats in water overnight. You get a softer result, a bit like congee (rice porridge) and need to use less milk.

Whizz some of those oats up in a blender and you’ve got oat flour, ideal to use in breads or to make Derbyshire oatcakes which always go down well, either with a fry-up or griddled, spread with butter and jam and rolled up and eaten like a pancake.

Bake ‘em and you’ve got granola. You can’t miss it any farmers’ market, where there are umpteen stalls selling it. Now it’s obviously better than the shop-bought stuff but why would anyone want to buy it when you can make it so easily for yourself?

There are recipes galore. Mine is from the Daily Telegraph of a few years back which works well although I doubt if the writer had ever tried it because she puts dried fruit in from the start. Anyone who has made granola knows the fruit bakes hard and horrible. Add it afterwards if you want although I prefer to use whatever fresh fruit is going that morning.

I stick more or less to this recipe but it is so adjustable: four tablespoons each of butter, brown sugar and honey are melted gently in a pan, to which you add 9oz (250g) of porridge oats and about 4oz (110g) of nuts and seeds. It’s best to crush them first. Last time I made this I used peanuts, walnuts, flaked almonds and roast hazelnuts, some sunflower seeds and dried and roasted butternut squash seeds I save in a jar.

Sprinkle in a little salt if you’re not worried about the sodium police, some cinnamon, mixed spice or nutmeg. Once I absentmindedly added ground pepper and was pleasantly surprised at the taste.

Make sure it is all mixed together then scrape into a baking tray and cook in a medium (160C) oven for about 15 minutes until brown but not too much. Stir up the oats halfway through to ensure even browning. Don’t be worried if it’s not crisp when removed from the oven. It will be when it cools.

There is one extra ingredient you might want to add and it really does make the world of difference: an ounce or two of desiccated coconut. Stick it in a posh jar and it will look good as well as taste good.

Now what’s for breakfast tomorrow?

Granola baking in the pan

Granola baking in the pan