This is the recipe always associated with the Workhouse ever since Charles Dickens made Oliver Twist ask for ‘more’. But what’s it really like?
Gruel is made with oatmeal rather than the oat-flakes we use in porridge today. The gruel served in Aberystwyth Workhouse was made with water rather than milk (children were served with ‘milk porridge’), but was rendered slightly more sweet and tasty by a combination of treacle and allspice. As you can see from the proportions there was only 2 ounces (about 50g) of oatmeal to every pint of water, so the consistency was not very thick.
To make the gruel put the oatmeal into cold water, set over a moderate heat on the stove-top and stir gently till the mixture is bubbling gently and the oatmeal has thickened. Add the allspice and continue to cook for a few minutes (don’t stop stirring!), then add treacle just before serving, and mix in well.