Medieval Recipes #8: Frumente yn lentyn

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May 12, 2014 by phicks2012

“Frumente yn lentyn”

PERIOD: England, 15th century | SOURCE: An Ordinance of Pottage | CLASS: Authentic

DESCRIPTION: Barley cooked in Almond Milk


16. Frumente yn lentyn. Take clene pykyd whete. Bray hit yn a morter, and fanne it clene, & seth hit tyl hit be brokyn. Than grynd blanchid almondys yn a morter; draw therof a mylke. Do hit togedyr & boyle hit tyl hit be resonabull thykke: than loke thy whete be tendyr. Colour hit up with safferyn. Lech thy purpas when hit ys sodyn, than ley hit on disches by hitsylfe, and serve hit forth with frumente.

– Hieatt, Constance B. An Ordinance of Pottage. An Edition of the Fifteenth Century Culinary Recipes in Yale University’s MS Beinecke 163. London: Prospect Books Ltd, 1988.



Frumenty in Lent. Take clean picked wheat. Pound it in a morter, and remove the hull, & boil it until it cracks. Then grind blanched almonds in a morter; make an almond milk. Add the wheat to the almond milk & boil until reasonably thick; make sure the wheat is tender. Color it with saffron. Cut your porpoise after it’s boiled, then set it in dishes with nothing else, and serve it with frumenty.



1 cup cooked cracked or bulgur wheat
3 cups Almond Milk
1 pinch saffron
1/4 tsp. salt
Stir together all the ingredients. Bring to a soft boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for approx. 45 minutes, or until the mixture becomes thick. Be careful not to scorch. Serve as a soup or as a sauce for meat.
Frumenty was one the most popular foods of the Middle Ages, used as an accompaniment to roast meat, venison being particularly favored. However, this particular recipe was intended for Lent and was meant to be served with boiled porpoise! Frumenty recipes appear throughout surviving period cookbooks & manuscripts, proving that its preparation was wide-spread and common. Apparently, any cook worth his or her salt could prepare this dish.

For additional information on the popularity of frumenty served with venison, please read In the Pursuit of Venison.

This translation, along with notes, has been published as a related reading in the Glencoe Literature Series (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill) edition of The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy).


Yes, this was a simple dish to prepare, and I like barley anyway, so I decided to test the recipe out. Luckily, these days both Barley and Almond Milk are easily available at my nearby Kroger, and while Saffron is not — well, a dash of yellow food coloring will tint the dish quite adequately, and at a much lower cost. Saffron is “pricy”. Almond milk is also a bit more expensive than regular milk, but it’s quite healthy and barley is cheap enough to offset that quite adequately.

I’m accustomed to cooking barley dishes starting with the dried pearl barley added directly to the mix without being pre-cooked, but this recipe calls for “cooked barley”, so I did pre-cook it. This added about 45 minutes to the cooking time, so the whole dish took about an hour and a half to prepare.

This isn’t a spicey or wildly flavorful dish as presented, but a few additional herbs and spices can easily be added, if you like, to address the tendency towards blandness, and when served under meat it is a nice addition to a meal — also being a healthy whole grain. It can, in addition, be prepared in smaller batches.  If you use unsweetened almond milk you also can cut down on the carbohydrates in this dish.

I added a bit more salt, and some fresh basil from my garden, and found it to be a very nice complement to chicken. A bit of garnish would also make this more visually attractive, though it is not necessary.




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May 2014


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