Late Night Gruel

Looks disgusting, I know. But forget oil painting or the printing press, this was the best thing ever to come out of the fifteenth century, perfect for when you’re laboring late on an autumnal evening over some tome of ancient lore:Late Night Gruel

Taylours. Take almondes, and grynde hem raw in a morter, and temper hit with wyne and a litul water; And drawe hit þorgh a streynour into a goode stiff mylke into a potte; and caste thereto reysons of coraunce, and grete reysons, myced Dates, Clowes, Maces, Pouder of Peper, Canel, saffron̄ a good quantite, and salt; and sette hem ouere the fire, And lete al boyle togidre awhile; And alay hit vp with floure of Ryse, or elles grated brede, and cast there-to sugur and salt, And serue hit forth in maner of mortrewes, and caste there-on̄ pouder ginger in þe dissh. (Harleian MS 4016)

The simplified, roughly translated version? Pour some almond milk in a small saucepan, add powdered cloves, mace, pepper, cinnamon, salt, a pinch of saffron. Throw in some raisins and chopped dates, bring the whole thing to a simmer for a bit. Then stir in a little rice flour. You don’t need a lot. I’d start with a tablespoon, maybe two, let it thicken for a minute, and then add more as needed. It turns into a gummy gruel fairly quickly. Stir in some sugar, sprinkle on some powdered ginger. Consume.

The end result is somewhere between hot cereal and a big steamy bowl of spiced cookie dough. It’s great in the morning as an alternative to oatmeal or cream of wheat, or in the evening if your insomnia makes it difficult to tell your dawn from your dusk…

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6 Responses to “Late Night Gruel”

  1. wow, i don’t think i have ever read a recipe from the 15th century! this is amazing and sounds pretty tasty. I am also really surprised rice flour was readily available in those times, i mean, tymes.

  2. hoveringdog Says:

    I haven’t read up on the history of rice, but most of the other ingredients would have been fairly exotic. For example, at the time of this recipe, cloves and nutmeg (from whence we also get mace) grew only on a handful of small islands near Indonesia. Cinnamon would have been imported from Ceylon, pepper from Africa, probably sugar from the Mediterranean, and so on. As far as I know, among the ingredients here, only saffron was grown domestically in England.

    But since the vast majority of people were illiterate, the extant cookbooks from the period do represent a rather lavish style of living… Most people were living it up on a steady diet of beer, bread, and boiled weeds…

  3. Wow, that is awesome. A fifteenth century vegan recipe, and it actually sounds good too! I never associated gruel with rich people.
    Great post!

  4. This is absolutely fascinating. The thought of gruel always made me cringe but this sounds nice.

  5. I will try this one at home, and to set the atmosphere, I will perhaps add some candles and some good book to devour with!

  6. I want to get a mortar and some raw almonds and add some wine and water and put it through a strainer, too. And then make the sloppy stuff.

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