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