Friday, 2 April 2010

Knight of the Black Pudding

Good Friday's breakfast was black pudding, purchased at the Farmer's Market last weekend, and provided one of life's epiphany moments. I've been eating black pudding all my life but suddenly I realised that these were special; not only part of the history and tradition of the area I am from, but when made properly black puddings such as these are a taste sensation - a true delicacy up there with the best. Those of a more squeamish disposition would no doubt disagree, but they would be wrong and are missing out.

I'd encourage anyone to try the black puddings made by champion black pudding maker and "Knight of the Black Pudding", Andrew Holt. His business, The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company, is based in Rossendale near Bury and their multi-award winning puds are a revelation; made using time-honoured methods, Andrew's recipe dates back to 1879. Traditional black pudding is made from pig's blood (more often than not these days it is dried blood), pork fat, onion, rusk, pearl barley, oatmeal and a blend of herbs and spices all encased in a length of intestine.

The herbs used vary from one maker to another, each recipe a closely guarded secret. In a Bury black pudding you are likely to find pennyroyal, along with thyme, marjoram, pepper and celery seed. It is the traditional "horseshoe" shape and this characteristic spicing that makes a Bury black pudding special. Pennyroyal has an interesting distinctly minty flavour, often likened to camphor, and it is easily identified in Andrew's rich, spicy pudding; it is quite subtle and harmonises completely with the other spices, yet gives a truly distinctive taste to the soft, moist sausage. There is an even distribution of barley and nuggets of pearly white fat throughout and a natural casing. I can't quite believe that blood can taste this good, but at this rate can see why vampirism may be so contagious!

The black puddings we buy in the UK are already cooked; you just need to reheat them. The traditional Lancastrian way to prepare the individual Bury type Black Pudding is to gently heat it through in water at about 80oc for about 10-15 minutes. The difficulty is that the pudding can burst out of its skin so it is important that they are not allowed to boil, hence the instruction for the relatively low temperature. The pudding is then split it down the middle, opened out on the plate and served with nothing more than salt, pepper, a slick of mustard and maybe some thickly buttered bread. That's it.

The straight "sticks" of black pudding are more usually sliced then grilled or fried - delicious severed as part of a full monty breakfast. Again gentle heat is the key as overcooking will cause them to be dry and hard.

As long as man has slaughtered animals to eat, blood sausages have been in existence and most regions of the world have their own variant of a speciality sausage based on congealed blood; drisheen from Ireland, boudin noir from France, morcilla from Spain, Biroldo from Italy & blutwurst from Germany, to name but a few. There are similar variations found throughout Asia and The Americas. They are revered the world over, so much so that in France there is an exclusive brotherhood known as the Chevalier du Gôute-Boudin - Knight of the Black Pudding. Andrew Holt was sworn into this exclusive group in 1998.

So why do many of us in the UK find the idea of eating blood from an animal that has been killed to provide us with meat so disturbing, even offensive? Most of us are carnivores and happy to consume flesh, fat and muscle (and much worse if you eat cheap sausages, dodgy burgers and kebabs), yet baulk at the prospect of eating blood. I guess it is the word and all it's gory conotations. But ultimately we were responsible for the death of that animal so surely the least we can do is pay it the basic respect of eating it all - nose to tail, everything but the squeak. We really have no excuse, especially when it tastes this good!

Black pudding deserves a more prominent place in our national cuisine. Stirred into mashed potato and eaten with a pork chop or roast chicken leg it makes a simple and tasty supper dish. It is also great added into a Lancashire hotpot or crumbled into a stew to give body and is often paired with scallops for an indulgent treat. For the more adventurous it can be incorporated into any number of imaginative dishes and there are some great recipe ideas on The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company's website showing how versatile an ingredient it is, from black pudding lasagna to crispy won-tons!

They also do a great "chilli bomb" black pudding, the hot chilli providing a spicy flavour explosion to tingle the taste buds; amazingly good. That's for another day though, this morning it just doesn't get better than simply boiled Bury black pudding for breakfast.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, yet I am one of the unfortunate few who would like to try black pudding but have not as of yet. I regret that when I was in London in December I missed the opportunity to indulge. Great info and thoughts, glad I ran across your page.

  2. I love any kind of blood sausage... my favourite ever was a morcilla at a tapas restaurant in Chicago - a loud, brightly-lit place with big communal tables, filled to the brim with actual Spanish people. It was just a couple of small slices served with a piece of crusty bread, but it was amazing. I ordered that tapas three times in one night.

    Love your blog, hope you don't mind that I've linked to you in my sidebar.

  3. Hi Cocina, I'm glad you enjoyed the post and really hope you get to try some Black Pudding soon!

    Katie, thanks for your comment and linking to my blog! Good effort on the thrice ordering of the morcilla tapas. I hear it is really silky in texture?
    I haven't tried it myself so cannot promise it will be as good as the one you tried, but I know that they sell authentic morcilla sausage in Salt's Deli in Leeds...

  4. I've been living in Cape Town for 18 months now and have been looking for black pudding since I arrived but without success. Just been to UK and brought some back. Just had a great "English Breakfast". Any ideas about finding it in Cape Town? Great stuff.

  5. Boil a black Pudding but unsure about the Plastic wrapper. No Skin Would cling film be safer?
    Shame on tesco no cooking advise.

  6. Hi, I presume you have one the black pudding 'sticks' (about the size of a big sausage) with a thick black plastic skin. If this is the case then these are normally skinned, sliced and then fried ir grilled. I have never tried boiling them. The type for boiling are the horseshoe shaped puddings, as pictured above, which have a more natural casing. I would personally not boil the sticks but grill or fry them and try to search out some traditional bury black pudding to boil. Hope this helps;

  7. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!
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  8. I have tried the horse shoe ones but not sure if I can eat the skin, delicious by the way