When did black pudding assume foodie status?
Black pudding (a blood sausage) was always a popular breakfast staple in Ireland – served in all decent bed-and-breakfasts on a ‘Full Irish’ plate along with white pudding, sausages, rashers and eggs, and sometimes tomatoes and mushrooms, accompanied by homemade brown soda bread. I never liked it – “Please, no black pudding on mine.”
But somewhere in the last ten years black pudding has been transformed into the gourmet must-have ingredient du jour: added to scallops or crab, used to lend interest to staid sausage rolls and scotch eggs, served as canapés with the requisite goat’s cheese and caramelised onions.
And it’s delicious! Artisan butchers and food producers all over the country have been developing their own recipes and flavours, although the basic ingredients (pig’s blood and oatmeal) have remained the same. Some credit Clonakilty Black Pudding with leading the charge. They use beef rather than pork and their exact formula is a closely guarded secret. Their website has lots of recipes and the history page features a video on how the pudding is made. This has become such a celebrated West Cork product that there has been talk of a Black Pudding Visitor Centre!
Nowadays, every supermarket meat section will sport an array of artisan black and white puddings. Here in West Cork we find local varieties such as McCarthy’s of Kanturk, Putóg De Róiste (an Irish-speaking black pudding from the Ballyvourney Gaeltacht), Hodgins of Michelstown, as well as Rudd’s from County Offaly, further afield. There are mass-produced varieties too, and supermarket chain generic puddings, all of which have their fans.
Avril Allshire at a function in Rosscarbery, handing around her black pudding swirls – our first taste of them; The Rosscarbery Recipes range of products on sale at Fields
My own favourite is made by Rosscarbery Recipes. This is totally attributable to Avril Allshire, the cheerful producer whom I have met on numerous occasions demonstrating ways to eat their black pudding or serving it up at events. She’s always up for a chat and she loves to share her enthusiasm and her recipes. She and husband Willy and two sons run Caherbeg Free Range pig farm (the Facebook page is full of adorable piggy pics), as well as the Rosscarbery Recipes food range and are totally committed to food quality, to provenance control, and to traditional curing methods that result in delicious pork products. They’ve even developed a gluten-free black pudding!
Avril’s Black Pudding Swirls have become my go-to appetiser recipe and I am sharing it at the end of the post, taken directly from her website but adapted for our non-West Cork readers.
The other way I have come to love black pudding is in potato cakes. As served by the fabulous An Chístín Beag (The Little Kitchen) in Skibbereen, this is a way to start your day off right, especially if you’re planning a hike! According to Pauline, you simply add chopped up black pudding to mashed potato, shape it into cakes, and fry. There’s got to be more to it than that, I insist – egg? flour? But no, that’s it. I think it helps if you leave them in the fridge to chill and firm up a bit before you cook them.
What about you and black pudding? Love it? Hate it? Got a favourite? Figured out how to get hold of it outside Ireland or the UK?
Rosscarbery Recipes’ Black Pudding Swirls
By Avrill Allshire (additional notes by Roaringwater Journal)
1 pack of Field’s Puff Pastry; (any ready-to-bake puff pastry will do, 500g or 1lb)
1 Rosscarbery Recipes Black Pudding; (Any good-quality black pudding can be substituted, 300g or 11oz)
1 large egg.
About an hour beforehand, take the puff pastry and the black pudding from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F/Gas Mark 6.
Whip the egg.
Roughly chop the black pudding and blitz in the food processor with half the whipped egg. If you don’t have a food processor, use a fork or wooden spoon. The idea is to get it to a spreadable consistency.
Dust your rolling surface with flour and roll the puff pastry into a large rectangle. Lay the Black Pudding mixture on the puff pastry. Spread it out evenly but not to the edge of one long side which should be brushed with a little of the whipped egg. Roll from the other side. Finish the roll by pressing gently onto the whipped egg end. Slice in 1cm slices and place on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking sheet. Brush each slice with the whipped egg.
Put in the oven and bake until a golden brown. This will take anywhere from 12 to 15 mins, so keep an eye on it.
Remove and allow to cool. Makes about 50 swirls.