I mentioned gruel yesterday when I was writing about cooking for invalids from an old cookery book. I got to thinking about gruel, and I have always thought of it as a sort of thin porridge made from some sort of cereal and milk and water or just water which was cooked by institutions such as the workhouse or orphanages to feed the inmates or orphans; a cheap easy to prepare food, which wasn’t without some nutritional value, but so often so diluted that all it can have done was stave off hunger.
I looked it up and that is exactly what it is except it wasn’t originally supposed to be necessarily a poor person’s fare; it could be made with a variety of grains, and at fasting times would be made with almond milk if dairy products were not part of the diet. it could also be sweetened or have other things added such as dried fruit. Across the world today people ea their own country’s version of it, and in Korea pine nuts are added and it is considered a real delicacy!
The recipe in Modern Practical Cookery has 1½ teaspoons of groats to ½ milk which are mixed together into a paste and heated to the boil, cooked for ten minutes then served with sugar ‘as required’. Groats in case you are wondering are are the hulled and crushed kernels of cereals such as oats, wheat, and rye; they’re the whole grains and include the cereal germ, bran and the endosperm (the nutritious stuff in a grain) Groats sound a great source of all sorts of good things!
The word gruel, by the way, comes from Old French which in turn got it from German, and groats is an Old English word.