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Grewel of Almaundes

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This is a strange recipe that, to modern Western tastes, falls directly into the uncanny valley between sweet and savory. The almonds give it a sweetness that makes it unlikely as a side-dish for dinner, but it's nowhere sweet and thick enough to make a good dessert. It might make a good breakfast food, but Americans would probably want to add sugar and fruit for that purpose.

From a medieval viewpoint however, the dish was likely considered to be ideal. Something ever so slightly sweet doesn't disturb the balance of the diner's humors. This is why simple gruels were considered an excellent food for the elderly and infirm.

While most gruel recipes call for broth and often contained meat, this one is unusual in its use of almonds. While it is not explicitly stated in any of the source recipes, it was probably intended as a soup for meatless days or during lent.


1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup steel-cut oats
2 cups water
pinch saffron
1/4 tsp. salt


Grind the almonds until they are like coarse breadcrumbs and place them in a saucepan with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the mixture thickens and the oatmeal is tender - about 10 minutes.

Note that the cooking time can vary significantly depending on the type of oats used.

Makes 4 half-cup servings.

Source [Forme of Cury, S. Pegge (ed.)]: Grewel Of Almaundes. XX.IIII. VI. Take Almaundes blaunched, bray hem with oot meel. and draw hem up with water. cast þeron Safroun & salt &c.

Source [Fourme of Curye - Rylands MS 7, D. Myers (transcr.)]: .lxxxiiij. Gruel of almaundes. Tak almaundes y blaunched, bray hem with ote mele, drawe hem up with watur & cast theron safroun & salt.

Source [Liber cure cocorum, T. Gloning (ed.)]: Gruel of almondes. Take almondes unblanchid and bray hom sone, Put ote mele to, þenne hase þou done, And grynde alle sammen, and draw hit þenne With water and sethe, as I þe kenne. Coloure hit with safron and salt hit þenne, And set in sale byfore gode menne.

Source [A Noble Boke off Cookry (Holkham MSS 674), R. Napier (ed.)]: To mak gruelle dalmond tak unblanched almondes and bray them put ther to otemele and grind it to gedur and draw it with water then boile it and colour it with saffron and serue it

Published: April 8, 2018

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