[Sca-cooks] kitchen tips

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Fri Aug 22 07:20:53 PDT 2008

On Aug 22, 2008, at 7:47 AM, Terry Decker wrote:

>> On Aug 22, 2008, at 1:23 AM, Terry Decker wrote:
>>> If the recipe under discussion is the one I'm thinking of, the   
>>> frumenty is wheat berries cooked in milk or cream.  It has a   
>>> decidedly different texture from frumenties made with meal or  
>>> farina.
>> Most of the recipes I've seen involve the grains being cooked in  
>> water until they burst and release their starch; then it's  
>> generally cooked further, and very slowly, with milk, then eggs and  
>> things like saffron are added near the end of the process. Perhaps  
>> it's a matter of interpretation, but if done right, there's not a  
>> lot of easily discernible wheat berry structure left by the time  
>> you're done.
>> Using whole wheat berries will leave more fibrous berry structure  
>> in  the mass, and there is a difference between that process and  
>> using coarsely-ground grain, but the difference is not huge, and  
>> since using coarse-ground grain is faster, less likely to burn, and  
>> also more appealing to many people (in my own experience, anyway),  
>> it's not a  bad option when cooking for 400 people.
>> If I were doing a small quantity and authenticity were my main   
>> priority, rather than one of many, I'd use whole wheat berries.
>> Adamantius
> The dish I'm thinking of takes hours to prepare, which is why  
> burning is a problem.  The wheat berries get very soft and swell but  
> retain their shape inside a translucent white gel of milk and  
> starch, ergo "frogs eggs."  Great taste, but it's not a practical  
> dish for large feasts, as you say.

Sounds like a flummery. But I think that more often than not, the sum  
total of collected written frumenty recipes will reflect a tendency to  
specify that the wheat is boiled until the individual berries are  
largely disintegrated. Which is, of course, part of the sticking and  
burning problem.

I may also be prejudiced by my dealings with Chinese rice porridge,  
which is generally cooked to a thick, still somewhat runny, but nearly  
homogeneous mass. Obviously white rice is less fibrous than wheat and  
the individual grains break up more easily, but break up they do, and  
the end result is pretty smooth. I'd expect wheat to behave a little  
differently, but there's not really anything in a medieval frumenty  
recipe to suggest that frog's eyes is necessarily what the original  
cooks were looking for. The use of that nickname does suggest that at  
some point, someone along the line did have that impression, so that  
can't be ignored, but I never really saw frumenty in that way; it  
sounds like something from a Maturin story.

I'm interested to note that there seems to be a range of expectations  
here as to the thickness and consistency of frumenty. I see someone  
here saying they use 2-1 water to grain, and I'm thinking that's not  
much, since even brown rice uses more water. I guess it's possible,  
consciously or otherwise, to have an idea in mind as to what the end  
result should be and sort of back-engineer the recipe to fit.

I just know from my own experience that thicker is heavier and  
clumpier when cool, which may be fine when it's the main dish at  
breakfast, but not necessarily what you want in a feast situation. The  
recipes do generally say to loke that it be stondyng, but that's also  
generally after egg yolks are added. This, after years of watching  
plates of polenta come back into kitchens in varying states of eaten- 
ness, probably colors my thinking somewhat, and is probably why I tend  
to go for a slightly-runny-whipped-potato effect.


"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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