Feeling Frumenty – Part 2
This version of the classic frumenty takes on a sweeter guise than my previous offering. Frumenty could be made with stock or almond milk, the latter being used during lent and for ‘fish’ days. Pearl barley was also a common substitute for wheat. As the recipe has evolved over the centuries it has been sweetened with sugar or honey morphing from a side dish to something more akin to rice pudding. I love this anecdote about from Florence White’s Good Things in England from a Mrs Osmonde in Suffolk:
“It was eaten during the twelve days at Christmas; some was placed outside the door at night for the ‘Pharisees’ (fairies). This custom seems to show that frumenty was made and eaten before England became Christian.”
Dried fruit is an absolute boon in winter and early spring when seasonal fresh fruit is scarce. Elizabeth David recommends baking apricots rather than stewing them for a ‘roasted, smoky flavour’. If you can find it, mead works really in this recipe but dry white wine is good too. The addition of cardamom and rosewater gives this a middle eastern vibe. For a dairy free version substitute the butter and cream for coconut oil and almond milk respectively.
Almond Frumenty with Cardamom Baked Apricots
Ingredients (Serves 4)
250g dried apricots
200ml white wine or mead
8 cardamom pods, bruised
5cm piece cinnamon stick
140g caster sugar
25g butter or coconut oil (for a dairy free version)
150g pearl barley
900ml almond milk
150-200ml double cream (or the same quantity of almond milk for a dairy free version)
1-2 tbsp rosewater
Toasted flaked almonds or chopped pistachios and dried rose petals to garnish
Preheat the oven to 150℃. Put the apricots, wine or mead, 6 cardamom pods, cinnamon and 100g caster sugar into a shallow oven proof dish. Place the dish into the oven, covered with either a lid or some tin foil, and bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Mix the pearl barley with the remaining sugar then add to the melted butter. Stir to coat the grains before pouring in the almond milk and adding the remaining cardamom pods. Bring to the boil then simmer gently until the mixture is thick and the grains are soft (about 1 hour). Remove the cardamom pods from the mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. As it cools it will thicken further, so just before you serve it, stir in the double cream or extra almond milk and the rosewater. Start with 1 tbsp then add more if you like. The strength of rosewater varies from brand to brand.
To serve spoon some of the almond frumenty into a bowl or glass followed by some of the baked apricots. Scatter some flaked almonds or chopped pistachios and dried rose petals over the top to garnish the dish.