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Mulberry Frumenty Recipe

This week's recipe is well and truly in keeping with this blog's "traditional British recipes" theme. Frumenty (or "Furmity " as it is also known) is a porridge made with wheat that was standard fare for the peasantry from Saxon times until perhaps a century ago.

I have made two versions of it for this recipe: a sweet version and a savoury version. The sweet version makes an excellent breakfast or a filling dessert. It was made famous in Thomas Hardy's classic novel, "The Mayor of Casterbridge". The principal character in the novel becomes drunk on the rum which was added to frumenty in days of yore. While drunk he sells his wife, but upon sobering up he regrets his action, forswears drink for 21 years and goes on to become mayor of the town of Casterbridge. It is a good story but we won't dwell on it here. Instead we will make frumenty; here is how I prepared it.

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat (available in bulk food stores)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs yolks
  • Mulberries (or raisins, or your choice of fruit)
  • Seasoning (mace, nutmeg)
  • Your choice of sweetener
  • Oxo cubes (only required for savoury version)

Sweet Version
  • Boil the bulgur wheat in the water until it is soft
  • Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes to thicken
  • Whisk the egg yolks with a tiny bit of the milk
  • Stir in the rest of the milk, fruit, egg yolks, seasoning and sweetener and gently reheat but do not reboil
Savoury Version
  • Make 4 cups of beef stock using 4 Oxo cubes in water
  • Boil the bulgur wheat in the stock until soft
  • Remove from heat and allow to thicken
  • Season with ground white pepper or cayenne and Worcestershire sauce
John's Notes
What does it taste like? I would describe the sweet version as similar in flavour and texture to oatmeal. The egg yolks add a hint of custard. I didn't have any rum in my kitchen so I made an alcohol free version (my wife is very relieved to hear that) but rum is definitely, by tradition, an essential ingredient.

I found dried mulberries at my local bulk food supplier. They taste delicious but they are extravagantly expensive. Substitute whatever small soft fruit your prefer; raisins and sultanas work well in this recipe.

The savoury version would have been the entire meal for the Saxon peasantry. Instead of beef stock it might have been prepared using mutton (old sheep), rabbit or whatever other meat was to hand. I made mine as an accompaniment to an excellent vegeterian curry upon which my lady and I dined in the castle this evening.

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1 comment:

  1. Damned furmity .. Henchard's Downfall ! Thanks for the recipe nevertheless !