As severe tropical Cyclone Marcia bears down on my home state of Queensland, my culinary thoughts turn to comfort food. For me, this is soup. For some reason however, this morning as I woke to the sound of heavy rain which is the harbinger, without doubt, of more serious cyclonic rain and wind and damage, I thought of milk puddings – which is odd, because I am not especially fond of these. My second thought was specifically of semolina in the form of pudding, which is also odd because I can definitely take or leave semolina pudding (I prefer my thick gruel in the form of oatmeal!) Thought number three was the astounding realization that I did not know, exactly, what semolina was. Wheat, of course, I knew that, but what form of wheat?
The Oxford English Dictionary advises that it is “an article of food consisting of those hard portions of ‘flinty’ wheat which resist the action of the millstones, and are collected in the form of rounded grains.” The word is derived from the Italian semolino , which is the diminutive of semola, which is bran. Old English millers would have called this (I think) ‘middlings’ – so another question is why did this inevitable residue of the milling process take on an Italian heritage?
I do indeed like the paradox that these ‘hard flinty’ bits of wheat end up as a soft, bland bowl of thick mush, so without further ado, here is a recipe for semolina pudding:
Take a pint and a half of milk, when boiling drop into it three tablespoonfuls of semolina, and stir it all together for about fifteen minutes; throw in two ounces of butter, and three ounces and a half of sifted sugar, with the grated rind of one lemon. Whilst the semolina still remains hot, beat gradually and briskly into it four eggs. Bake in a moderate oven.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, c.1870.
As the day and the storm proceed, I may just see what other semolina ideas the world has to offer.