Oat gruel

 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.

Oat gruel
Serves 1

2 tbsp porridge (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.

Tagged with: BreakfastEnglishOats

11 Responses to Gruel

  1. Jones says:

    haha, that’s hilarious, Happy New Year! I always thought gruel was just a generic name for slop, I didn’t know there were actually recipes for it, let alone anyone claiming to make “excellent gruel”

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Happy New Year! There are lots of recipes for gruel. Some of the nicer sounding ones involve sugar, mace, cinnamon, wine and currants. But that wouldn’t be very New Year diet, would it?

  2. You’ve answered a debate that raged in our house over Christmas whilst watching Mary Poppins. The children sing a song about their perfect nanny who never makes them eat gruel. What is gruel exactly? A very plain soup replied my father but beyond that, having never knowingly had it, we could get no further than the water vegetables had been boiled in. But that’s stock so that can’t be right and we were confused. Well now I know! Whether I’ve make myself any remains to be seen. Happy New Year!

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Happy New Year to you too! Think everyone was watching Mary Poppins this Christmas – that film made me think lime cordial was highly desirous for years. Glad to have been of service on the gruel question.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ginandcrumpets, ginandcrumpets. ginandcrumpets said: New Post: Gluttons, drunkards and spendthrifts, repent your ways and begin 2010 with a bowl of gruel: http://bit.ly/5aS3gR […]

  4. winesleuth says:

    gives a whole new meaning to the word – grueling….:)

  5. Lizzie says:

    Ewww. I’ll stick to me sad plate of leaves, thank you!

  6. Luiz Hara says:

    Wow, gruel sounds interesting but i don’t think i could stomach it – two booze free days in the week is enough penitence for me.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      I think gruel is not a traditional food anyone is going to rehabilitate soon. It really does deserve its reputation.

  7. […] of the month: The notion of a New Year diet passed me by (with the exception of a foray into gruel for New Year’s Day) and January was full of cakes, cheese and hot toddies. But my favorite […]

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