Eisands with Otemeale grotes - A Book Of Cookrye (1591)

Eisands with Otemeale grotes - A  Book Of  Cookrye (1591) 

Eisands of otemeal grotes is one of those recipes that I knew I had to create when I first ran across it while doing research for a cook’s gathering in 2015. This interpretation was a very long time in coming. The Cook’s Gatherings were my first attempt at trying to bring about cook’s gild in the area where I live. It was a very short lived adventure and that saddens me. There does not seem to be as much interest in cooking in my area as I would like there to be. Interpreting this recipe required a lot of research. My first stumbling block evolved around *how* to cook it. My second was where to locate the main ingredient (oatmeal grotes).

I tackled my second roadblock first. I needed to determine what oatmeal grotes were and determine what the closest thing to them was I could purchase. Fortunately I had done some basic research into oatmeal when I interpreted the recipes from Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430)  for .xxiiij. Drawyn grwel and vij. Gruelle a-forsydde. Oatmeal has a long history and you can read about it in both of those articles. During my research into oatmeal I discovered there are a variety of ways that oatmeal can be prepared. Oat Groats are the hulled whole oat berry. They appear to be very similar to grains of rice, barley or wheat berries. The oats that I used were steel cut oats, which is essentially the whole oat berry that has been chopped into pieces but not rolled. Steel cut oats are sometimes referred to as Scottish or Irish oats, but these oats tend to be ground rather then cut.

The other variety of oats and the one that most people are familiar with are rolled oats, which are whole oats that have been steamed, rolled flat into flakes and then dehydrated. This method of making oats did not appear until long after our period and should not be used if other kinds of oats are available. Quick oats are the cousin of rolled oats, but they are much quicker in cooking due to a longer steaming period before dehydration and being chopped into smaller pieces. These are the least nutritious of the varieties of oats that are available on the market today.

The first roadblock took a little bit longer to overcome. I needed to determine what cooking method was used. Was the dish baked? Steamed? Cooked on the stove top or boiled? Each of these cooking methods would produce a very different result. My first attempt was to cook it on the stovetop similar to an oatmeal custard, but the directions are very specific on liquid to oat ratio and there was not enough liquid to sufficiently cook the oats. The same problem revolved around baking the dish like bread. There simply was not enough liquid. Returning to the source, I discovered that the recipes prior to and after involved boiling the puddings. The result? A delicious pudding that is similar to your classic boiled Christmas plum puddings.

When I think of a pudding, I think of a custard like dish made of chocolate or vanilla or coconut. However puddings can trace their origins to approximately 1300 and meant “a kind of sausage” where meat and suet were stuffed into the stomach or intestines of an animal and boiled to be kept and served as needed. This recipe bridges the gap between those earlier dishes and the more modern ones that emerged in the mid 1600’s. It involves food that has been boiled or steamed in a bag or a sack. At the time this particular recipe was popular puddings could be either savory or sweet, meat or grain based.

Eisands with Otemeale grotes. Take a pinte of Creame and seethe it, and when it is hot, put therto a pinte of Otemeale grotes, and let them soke in it all night, and put therto viii. yolks of egs, and a little Pepper, Cloves, mace, and saffron, and a good deale of Suet of beefe, and small Raisins and Dates, and a little Sugar.

Eisands with Otemeale grotes. Take a pinte of Creame and seethe it, and when it is hot, put therto a pinte of Otemeale grotes, and let them soke in it all night, and put therto viii. yolks of egs, and a little Pepper, Cloves, mace, and saffron, and a good deale of Suet of beefe, and small Raisins and Dates, and a little Sugar.

Eisands of Oatmeal Groats.  Take a pint of cream and heat it, and when it is hot, put thereto a pint of oatmeal groats, and let them soak in it al lnight, and put thereto eight yolks of eggs, and a little pepper, cloves, mace, and saffron, and a good deal of suet of beef, and small raisins and dates, and a little sugar. 

Interpreted Recipe                                                                            Serves 8 (six if you aren't into sharing!)

1 pint cream (whole milk)
2 cups steel cut oats, or oat groats
¼ cup of shredded suet or butter (I used butter)
1/3 cup dates halved and quartered (My dates were kind of dried out so I placed a handful in the blender and added a 1/4 cup hot water and then blended them into a puree which is probably why my pudding is so dark. Mea Culpa!)
1/3 cup currants or raisins
8 egg yolks (or four whole eggs) beaten
1 tsp. Le Menagier's "Fine Spice Powder" 
Pinch of saffron
¼ cup granulated sugar

I heated the cream and butter together in the microwave and then poured it over my oats, mixing it together, along with the dates, raisins, sugar and spices and two of my four eggs and here I diverge greatly from the recipe.  I cooked it on the stovetop to hasten the absorption process until it became very thick.  At which point I beat the remaining eggs tempered them and added them to the "dough".  Make sure it is thick and dough like. 

If you choose not to take the "shortcut" heat up the cream and the butter and pour them over the oats and let them sit preferably overnight.  Add remaining ingredients and then move forward.

While I was precooking the oatmeal I had placed my cloth into approximately two gallons of water I was bringing to boil.  I was using my canning pot which has a metal trivet in the bottom to keep the pudding from the bottom and possibly burning.  Once the dough was made (and I say dough because that is the consistency you should be aiming for with your oat and egg mixture) I removed the cloth, placed it into a bowl, added the dough and then tied it up. I used rubber bands to keep it secured and you will want to secure the cloth as close to the pudding as you can.  

Make sure that your water is at a full rolling boil before adding your pudding.  Turn heat down to medium and cook for approximately four hours.  My pudding floated so I trapped it beneath a wire sieve so that it was fully submerged during the cooking period.  You will want to check your water about every hour (or less) to make sure that the pudding is still fully submerged.

Once the pudding is cooked, remove it from the boiling water; give it a quick soak in cold water so you can handle it right away or allow draining and cooling before untying. It can be served warm or cold, but if you try to cut it when it is too hot it will crumble on you.  Although the recipe does not call for it, you could serve it with a sauce made from butter and sugar. 

With the exception of the very long boiling period, this was a very easy dish to put together and the fact that it can be served cold is a saving grace.  If you wanted to serve this at a feast, I would suggest making it a day or two before in small batches and then either warm it up, or serve it cold.  I got approximately 16 slices out of this recipe, so it would easily serve eight people, or as part of a much larger feast, up to 16. This is a perfect breakfast food.  The oatmeal becomes rice-like in texture, and to me it tasted very similar to a rice pudding (which I love).  It slices like a cake or quick bread and I could see it being served with some butter as a portable breakfast meal. Did I mention I could not stop eating it?  Neither could my taste testers who have made me promise to make this again.  This would also make a very nice camp "dessert", requiring nothing more than to make sure that it is covered with water while it cooks.