Jamie has helped to heal the rift between The Mackenzie and his war chief and Claire has taken him back to his bed. The only outstanding item on young Mr. Fraser’s list of things to do is to convince the Duke of Sandringham to help him clear his name.
Alas, as we book readers know, Jamie needs to watch his back(side) when engaging the help of the Duke.
Enter that magic potion of Mrs. Fitz’s, her centuries-old cure for costiveness, fig syrup.
While I’m always amongst the first to agree that good food is medicine, unfortunately fresh figs are months away from ripe for most of us in the Northern hemisphere, and therefore a batch of that most-effective syrup is beyond our reach.
Instead, I’ve chosen another traditional receipt, one that lends itself very nicely to the inclusion of a few figs…just in case the Duke comes prowling.
Barley, and it’s more primitive relative, bere, has been grown for a millennium in the Highlands and Outer Isles. Its hardy stalks weathered the harsh northern climate, short growing season and low pH soil better than any other crop, even oats.
Barley porridge, in it’s most traditional form is nothing more than barley boiled in salt water, mixed with raisins and currants, and served with a bit of cream and honey.
If you really want to embrace the feeling of living in an 18th C croft, eating 18th C food, then I encourage you to boil up some barley and go for it. If you’re feeling particularly wealthy for a subsistence farmer, then you could soak your dried fruit in a wee dram of whisky before adding it to your barley
porridge, I mean pudding.
My more modern version contains milk, cream and everything else that made 18th C food tasty. Citrus fruits were rare back then, but they were available…especially to a wealthy clan such as the MacKenzies.
And while Mrs. Fitz probably would have poured all of the ingredients into some cheesecloth and boiled it in a kettle set over the hearth, my stove top method is quicker, less messy, and a whole lot more conducive to modern life.
(Click on the title below for a printable recipe.)
: A creamy, wholesome treat, inspired by the past. Think rice pudding, with just a wee bit more texture.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- Pot or Pearl Barley – 1 Cup (see notes)
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Dried Figs, sliced – ½ Cup
- Raisins – ½ Cup
- Whisky – 2 Tble
- Juice of Large Orange (about 2 Tble)
- Milk – 1½ Cups
- Honey – ¼ Cup
- Light, Single or Coffee Cream (18-20% fat) – ½ Cup
- Egg Yolk – 1
- Zest of Large Orange (about 2 tsp)
- Cinnamon – ½ tsp
- Freshly Grated Nutmeg – pinch
Boil 2 quarts of water in a large pan. When boiling, add the barley and the salt. Boil gently until tender, 20-30 minutes for pearl barley, 40-50 minutes for pot barley. Drain.
Meanwhile, soak the figs and raisins in the whisky and orange juice.
Return the hot barley to the pan, and mix in the milk, honey, soaked fruit and soaking liquid. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes.
Beat together the cream and egg yolk. Stir in the orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add this mixture to the barley, stirring quickly to combine. Cook another 2 minutes.
Serve hot, at room temp or cold, passing extra honey and cream to pour on top.
Ith do leòr! (Eat Plenty)
- Both pearl and pot barley are polished in a pearling machine to remove the grain’s inedible outer hull. The pearl barley undergoes the process for longer to also remove the bran. The bran of pot barley remains intact, and therefore takes longer to cook.
- Use all whisky or all orange juice to soak the figs and raisins if you prefer.
- Zest the orange before you juice it — trust me…things will go a whole lot easier.
- Do not buy pre-ground nutmeg – it’s tasteless. Buy whole nutmegs and grate as needed.