Flummery - From the Workhouse to a Work of Art - Gluten-free Recipe



Introduction: Flummery - From the Workhouse to a Work of Art - Gluten-free Recipe

About: I live in a forest garden by the sea in an old Celtic longhouse in the Baie de Mont Saint Michel, France. Before I escaped and became a happy peasant, I had three jobs and one half day a week in which to be cr…

Flummery: insincere, flattery or praise, statements that have no real meaning, nonsense.

Flummery: the dessert, is one of those strange 'rags to riches' phenomenon that occurs within the history of foods and fashions, the most famous of which is the oyster. In the 17th century flummery was a dish of unappetising gruel or thin porridge for feeding the poor and sick, often those in the workhouse (poor house) and made from the fermented soakings and rinsings of various cultivated cereals, to be exact, the inner husks. It was also celebrated in literature for being the food of misers such as Scrooge.

Roll on a century and this lowly dish had transformed, with the addition of cream, alcohol, fruit and even gold leaf into the most glorious and fashionable of artistic centrepieces ever to grace the Georgian dinner table.

My flummery is I hope a little work of culinary art contained in a shot glass, each guest receiving their own individual treat. It is flavoured with rum, home-made Dundee Seville orange marmalade, mocha and hand-made chocolate covered peels

Step 1: A Little History and Inspiration From Traditional Recipes

In Scotland flummery was traditionally made from oat husks and 'sowans' or as it was called in the gaellic, sùghan a drink or dish laced on festive occasions with usquebaugh, the water of life. In fact this culinary speciality was so engrained within Scottish Tradition that in Aberdeen and surrounding areas, the 24th of December was known as 'Sowans Nicht'.

In the Georgian period, hartshorn jelly and ground rice, were added to the rich cream and alcohol version of flummery making it stiff enough to be moulded. In the 18th Century Josiah Wedgwood's potteries had perfected the making of china dessert moulds and these were used to create all kinds of flummery fantasies.

This was then the apogée of flummery as a festive Christmas centrepiece, one of the most famous of these being, 'Temple Flummery', a sweet re-creation of Solomon's Temple. Pictured above you can see an excerpt from the recipe for the latter and a picture of the equally amazing 'Eggs and Bacon Flummery' from the Pinterest page of historic foods.com, which is well worth a visit. However, to me both these were eclipsed by the astounding 'Gilded Fish Pond', in which the flummery was covered with a layer of real gold leaf!

The recipes for these can be found in The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald, published in 1782. (I provide a link to a free internet copy of this book at the end).

This makes my simple tinted flummery, with mocha and marmalade, pretty tame but I hope you'll find it both artistic and delicious!

Step 2: Ingredients

All my ingredients are organic and as this is a gluten-free recipe, I'm using rum instead of whisky. The latter can contain added malt. I've even made this dessert with a fruit syrup/liqueur and that was good too! I am also using actual oats rather than the 'rinsings', so my flummery has texture and bite.

(makes 18 - 20 dependent on the size of shot glass)

½ a pint (300ml) of raw crème fraîche épaisse*, whipping or thick cream plus a little extra for decoration.

½ a cup (75g) (3oz) toasted rolled, pinhead or steel cut gluten-free oats (here I've used rolled)

1 tablespoon of raw honey, rapadura or raw cane sugar

2 tablespoons of rum

2 tablespoons of Seville marmalade

1 tablespoon of freshly brewed coffee

4 squares of 80% cocoa dark chocolate

*This is cream which has been left to stand and cool after full cream milk, such as A2 raw Normandy, has been run through a separator. 

You can of course use shop-bought marmalade for this recipe. It is, however, quite simple just to make up a quick batch from a few citrus fruits and their rinds. If you are outside the (very short) season for bitter Seville oranges, then you may just need to use more lemon juice and less sugar to get that fine aigre-doux balance. This is a dessert that suffers, just as marmalade itself does, if you overdo the sweetness. I will put a link to my marmalade recipe and that for chocolate orange peels, which I use as a decoration, at the end.

For decorating - extra marmalade, chocolate dipped candied orange peels, cream and cocoa.

Step 3: Creating the Basic Flummery

In a frying pan and with quite a high heat, toast the oats until they smell nutty (a few minutes) move them around the pan so they get an even toasting. Leave to cool.

If you are using a thin crème fraîche then you will need to whip this up prior to incorporating the rest of the ingredients. You can over-beat cream so I usually beat it until it forms something that looks like the leaves of a book. However, for the last five years I have been able to get my cream directly from the separator - raw and organic and so thick a spoon will stand up in it.

Whip up the cream and stir in the honey/sugar and oats. If you inadvertently stir in the oats in whilst they are still warm don't worry just whisk the whole lot up together and everything will be fine.

Step 4: Creating the Colours and Flavours

Start by dividing the mixture into two.

Into one half of the the basic flummery add one tablespoon of marmalade and the same measure of rum and mix well.

Whisk the mixture together until stiff.

You should end up with something that looks thick and textured. I used a dark marmalade, one I had made with raw cane sugar.

For the other half of the basic flummery, melt the four squares of chocolate in a heat proof bowl or jug in or over a pan of hot water. When melted stir in the coffee and a tablespoon of rum. Add this to the flummery and whisk well.

Making this sweet a day in advance is no problem, in fact flummery in my opinion gets even creamier and tastier if it is allowed to rest overnight. You can then assemble the dessert on the day of the party.

Step 5: Assembly

Add a layer of pure marmalade to the bottom of each shot glass and then add alternate layers of cream and the two flavours of flummery. Decorate the top with some more cream and a sprinkle of cocoa and some curls of dark chocolate. I also use home-made chocolate dipped candied peels to finish this dish.

If you are lucky enough to own a jelly or blancmange mould, then feel free to use that, happy in the knowledge that you are recreating a piece of culinary history.


For my home-made candied peels and marmalade recipe follow this link to Simply Organic Recipes Contents Page 'Preserving Foods'

Live link to: The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald, published in 1782. This is on the Internet Archive, from where you can read or download it for free

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