- Food & Drink
Today is a day of purges. Or, at least, it is the day before a day of purges. One final fry-up and a fistful of painkillers to deal with last night’s excess and then tomorrow, tomorrow the diet will begin. Tomorrow there will be jogging.
Nothing says penitence like a bowl of gruel. There’s asceticism in every watery spoonful. Classically, it’s made from groats; hulled cereals you can still buy from bird food specialists. But my urge for edible punishment doesn’t allow for shipping time, and gruel knows no limits. You can make gruel from most grasses and grains.
In A Plain Cookery Book For The Working Classes (pub. 1852), Charles Elmé Francatelli advises that “In the absence of groats, oatmeal furnishes the means of making excellent gruel.” To serve, he suggests sweetening it with sugar or eating with salt and butter. Sugar would be a wicked indulgence, so I’ve followed his recipe and finished it with savoury seasonings. Enjoy.
2 tbsp porridge oats (approximately 15g)
1 tsp butter (approximately 5g)
1 Mix the oats with 150ml cold water and set aside. Bring 450ml water to the boil in a pan, then add the oats, their water and a pinch of salt. Bring back to the boil, reduce the heat and cook at a rolling simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
2 Taste the gruel and season with more salt and some pepper, if liked. Pour into a warm bowl and top with the butter. Let the butter melt, stir to mix and eat.
If you’re wondering what this gruel tastes like, it’s a lot like the Mongolian milk tea but worse. Much, much worse. If ever there’s a time to give thanks that you weren’t born into a life of grinding poverty, it’s when you’re faced with a bowl of gruel.