In honor of our last cinematic trip to Middle Earth, this week Kitchen Overlord is treating you to one recipe per day from each chapter of An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery. While there’s nothing wrong with some cold chicken and pickles for a quick bite on a busy morning, if you want to impress visiting wizards, warm your belly with this historic morning porridge stuffed into creamy poached pears.
Stuffed Poached Pears
If you find yourself entertaining unexpected guests, this rustic, seasonal breakfast is a quick, easy way to make a simple breakfast of leftovers seem fit for a brunch with the king of the dwarves.
4 large firm pears
2 c / 470 ml apple cider, pear cider, or white wine
¼ c / 50 g sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 c / 450 g leftover oat porridge or furmenty
1 c / 220 g leftover Stewed Apples and Prunes (pg 17) from Breakfast or leftover Roasted Apples (pg 131) from Supper, chopped
4 tbsp heavy cream
This is honestly a lot easier than it looks. It’s mostly a matter of heating up leftovers while a pot simmers. You can do it half brain dead while waiting for coffee to brew.
Pour the cider or wine in a wide stewpot. Add the sugar and cinnamon and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
While you’re waiting for the booze to boil, peel the pears. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and a little interior flesh. These are about to become edible bowls, so get rid of anything you don’t want to eat while still keeping the pear’s shape.
Add the pears cut side down to the pot of bubbling booze. Put a lid on it and turn the heat down to medium low. Let the pears gently simmer for about 10-12 minutes. Open the pot, carefully flip the pears over, then put the lid back on and continue simmering for another 10-12 minutes, or until the pears are tender but not mushy.
While the pears are simmering away, splash a little milk in yesterday’s porridge or furmenty to loosen it up. Once it reaches the right consistency, warm it through. You can use another pot, or if you don’t mind modern magic, just toss it in the microwave for a minute or two. Do the same thing with some leftover baked apples from last night’s dessert or stewed apples and prunes from yesterday’s breakfast.
Use a slotted spoon to carefully lift the pears onto a serving platter. Remember, from this point on, your main goal is presentation. Arrange the pear halves cut-side up on a platter. Spoon the furmenty or porridge in the middle. Make a little well and top that with some leftover apples or dried fruit. Finish them off by splashing a tbsp of heavy cream over each assembled pear half.
Make sure everyone else finishes their first cup of coffee or tea while your pears cook. You want them to be awake and properly impressed when you bring this to the table.
Frumenty Wheat Porridge
While oats were the Victorian grain of choice in the north, people in the south preferred wheat. Since The Shire was based on a village square in the middle of the country, Hobbits would no doubt get to enjoy both.
On a day to day basis, most people in the south would’ve eaten the same style of porridge as northerners, substituting wheat in the place of oats. Only the wealthy could regularly afford to add expensive yet tasty ingredients like saffron and pine nuts. That meant for working class households, frumenty was usually only served around Christmas as a special holiday treat.
1 tbsp butter
1 c / 200 g bulgur wheat
1 c / 220 ml whole milk
2 c / 470 ml water
⅓ c / 100 ml whole cream
⅓ c / 50 g dried cherries
⅓ c / 50 g currants (or raisins)
2 egg yolks, beaten
4 saffron strands
⅓ c / 50 g brown sugar
½ tbsp butter
1 tbsp pine nuts
⅔ c 100 g flaked almonds
⅓ c 100 ml whole cream
Just like regular porridge, furmenty’s rich flavor gains even more depth when you toast the grains. Melt your butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the wheat and stir constantly for about two minutes, or until all the grains are toasted. Turn the heat down to medium and add the water. Give that a good stir, then add the whole milk. If you add the milk first, you risk scalding it.
Unlike the oats, which you could abandon for nearly half an hour, wheat needs constant attention. Keep stirring while you bring the pot to a gentle boil. Once it starts boiling, continue stirring regularly for 8-10 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the wheat is tender. If your pot runs dry before the wheat has softened up, add another ¼ c / 60 ml of water and keep stirring it for another 5-6 minutes. Mix in the cherries and currants, then cover the pan and take it off the heat for 10 minutes so the wheat can cool.
When you come back, mix in the heavy cream. You need to let the wheat cool before mixing in the cream or else you risk the dairy curdling. Now put the pot back over a medium heat and slowly bring it back to a gentle boil. Stir frequently to keep anything from burning. Once the mix is boiling again, carefully stir in the beaten egg yolks. When they’re well mixed, add the saffron strands and brown sugar. Keep mixing everything for another 1-2 minutes so the brown sugar melts into the porridge and the saffron strands have a chance to come in contact with as much of the grain as possible.
Remove the pan from the heat, cover it with a lid, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes for the flavors to mingle. While you wait, prepare the topping. Melt ½ tsp butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pine nuts and flaked almonds. Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes while the nuts toast. Be warned, if you look away for a second, pine nuts will instantly go from pale and chewy to burnt. Keep a close eye on them during the toasting.
To serve, fill bowls with frumenty, pour in a splash of cream, and top each one with a tbsp or two of freshly toasted nuts. If the expense and fuss of pine nuts are outside your budget, you can simply top the rich porridge with a splash of cream and plenty of dried cherries and currants.
Sample recipes from all seven chapters of An Unexpected Cookbook:
Breakfast – Poached Pears Stuffed with Frumenty
Second Breakfast – Beef and Mushroom Stuffed Hand Pies
Elevenses – Shire Seed Cake
Luncheon – Stewed Hare with Root Vegetables and Dumplings
Afternoon Tea – Shortbread
Supper – Stuffed Roasted Mushrooms
Dinner – Boxty on the Griddle with Bacon
Need more? Buy your own copy of An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery, Amazon.com.