Black Pudding

Breakfast at Budd's

Breakfast at Budd’s of Ballydehob – all local ingredients

When did black pudding assume foodie status?

Breakfast Pack

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.”

West Cork Pies' Black Pudding 'Brunch' Scotch Eggs, at the Skibbereen Market

West Cork Pies‘ Black Pudding ‘Brunch’ Scotch Eggs, at the Skibbereen Market

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.

The black pudding selection at Field's of Skibbereen

The black pudding selection at Field’s of Skibbereen

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!

Clon web page

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!

The Allshire Family with awards for their food products. Avril, William and the two boys are totally involved in all aspects of the business

The Allshire Family with awards for their food products. Avril, William and the two boys are totally involved in all aspects of the business

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.

An Chístín Beag's black pudding potato cakes.

An Chístín Beag’s black pudding potato cakes

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.

The choir Christmas get-together at Rosie's Pub. My contribution was the black pudding swirls, recipe below.

The choir Christmas get-together at Rosie’s Pub. My contribution was the black pudding swirls, recipe below

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?

Making the swirls

Making the swirls

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.

swirls finished


Shauna and Robert tasting

A Carnivore in West Cork

Gubbeen's Chorizo and Salami

Gubbeen’s Chorizo and Salami

Why am I writing about meat?

Well, for starters, Robert and I are omnivores. Given that I do eat meat (walk away now, all my vegetarian friends!) I want it to be good quality and tasty. I want to know where it comes from and how it was raised. Living in a large Canadian city, I was aware that here and there there was a butcher shop – either an old-fashioned hanging-on-for-dear-life shop in a traditional neighbourhood, a stall in one of the large markets, or latterly a smart shiny artisan establishment staffed by trendy young men in striped aprons. But, like everyone else, I didn’t have time to drive across town to seek out places like this and just bought my meat in the supermarket.

One of the things that surprised me, coming back to live in small-town Ireland, was that butcher shops are alive and well and thriving still – even if there is also a large supermarket in the town.

They are a friendly lot, these butchers. They love to offer advice on how to cook the meat you’re buying, or to give suggestions for dinner. They will cut a piece exactly as you want (wafer thin for stroganoff) or disappear into the back and reappear with a huge haunch because you want something that isn’t on display (shanks, with the marrow intact), or trim every last ounce of fat off a joint. “Years ago,” one butcher told me, “all cuts were sold with bone and fat. But, sure, you have to move with the times.”

Over the years there have been lots of exposés and scandals about the provenance of meat sold in Europe (horse meat, anybody?) and concerns about foot-and-mouth and other diseases, but our local butchers know the source of all the meat they sell, down to the farm it came from, or the herd. “It’s from our own farms,” one butcher told me, indicating an area north of Skibbereen where contented cattle spend their days in lush green fields.

Micheál Daly of Skibbereen - the meat comes from their own farms

Micheál Daly of Skibbereen – Daly’s meat comes from their own farms

“We get our lamb from out by Fohorlagh” said another. We know the cattle spend their lives grazing on rich grasses – we are surrounded by them in Nead an Iolair – and we think that’s the secret to the taste. We don’t want to eat meat that’s been factory bred and fed.

Happy cattle in the field next door

Happy cattle in the field next door to us

Most of the local butchers work on well-worn wooden butcher blocks. I’m fascinated by these – they seem like such old technology and indeed some have switched to dense plastic blocks. But the ones who still use the wooden ones tell me that lots of research has been done on them and that they are as safe as or safer than plastic.

John Barry, our local butcher in Schull, working at his 40 year old butcher's block

John Barry, our local butcher in Schull, working at his 40 year old butcher’s block

Time worn beauty

Time worn beauty

As our readers know, the food scene in West Cork is terrific. At our Saturday market in Skibbereen we have a great choice of artisan meat products. We get our breakfast sausages from Frank Krawczyk – he was a charcuterie pioneer here before any of us knew the meaning of the words.

The fabulous West Coast Pies is our go-to resource for pork pies, scotch eggs, gourmet dinner pies (chicken and leek, beef bourguignon) and wonderful salmon quiches. They do lots of vegetarian stuff too. Paul is so insistent on the quality of his pork that he has decided to raise his own and is now an organic pig farmer on top of everything else.

Paul Phillips of West Cork Pies

Paul Phillips of West Cork Pies

We met Avril Allshire of Rosscarbery Recipes at a recent concert, serving her uber-delicious black pudding swirls. We loved them so much she told us where to find the recipe and so we made up a batch ourselves. Yummers! (And I am not normally a black pudding fan.)

And of course there’s Gubbeen! They’ve been making cheeses forever, award-winning and delectable, and built a smokehouse to produce a smoked version of their famous farmhouse cheese. From there, Fingal Ferguson has produced an array of chorizo and salamis that are firm favourites with all the locals. We buy his bacon and hams – we always cook an enormous one at Christmas and have to book it weeks in advance.

Read about Gubbeen’s food philosophy on their website – it might be the most profound expression of the importance of real food you will find anywhere.

Andy O'Sullivan of Skibbereen. He's been a butcher all his life and says the 5 year apprenticeship offers excellent training.

Andy O’Sullivan of Skibbereen. He’s been a butcher all his life and says the 5 year apprenticeship offers excellent training