Thursday, 4 February 2010

S'up Blood

Madeley and Finnegan. A tourdefource duo. Many a year they have held court on a sick day or holiday with their sphincter excruciating marital tiffs and Madeley's bumbling interviewing techniques.

One thing I always had time for however, was their light hearted quiz: You Say we Pay. How this concept has never been invented by Mattel years ago as a family board game, I will never know.

I tend to hold people who take the time to phone into daytime shows or to call radio DJ's in the the same prestige that I hold people who buy calendars with cats on. However... even I would try to call in for this game.

A picture appears, perhaps a piano, a packet of club biscuits or Leslie Grantham and you must barrage R n J with as many descriptive superlatives as possible.

Should they answer correctly, you pocket £1000. I often play this game on a toned down, kinder- kind level with my students at school.

They have never heard of Richard, Judy, This Morning, Fred the Weatherman, nor any of the words that are flashed up before them. Nevertheless, they sit in the magic chair, scream at each other using "it rhymes with Gavin and Stacey for Chicken Jalfrezi". Fair play to you. That one was a tough one.

This weeks regional foods edition posed some particularly complex similes and oxymoron's for our You Say we Pay crew.y Throwing in black pudding was the perfect signal to open the floodgates of toilet humour and vomit noises in the room.

All children, whoever you ask, however old they are will one day become accustomed to the knowledge of the contents of a Black Pudding. It becomes their own personal little secret, a weapon of power. Perhaps it will come out in a few years as a 3 card flush in trivial pursuit? But for now, they know it and...they don't like it.

In a quest to ignite the passions of the culinary world, I also tend to throw in a few "mystery guests" to the fray. Oliver usually comes off worse, Gordon Ramsey is still a legend for all his mock-I did not mean to swear and be controversial demeanour. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall gets a mixed review from being "a farmer" to "that Heston one" to even "he works at the Bike repair shop in town". I threw in Ant and Dec for some jest, which was lapped up. That's the thing with duo's, it is so much more socially acceptable. They also got Ben and Jerry's in no time.

Being born in the North West and raised in a home with no shortage in the food department, I have also kept clandestine on the Black Pudding front.

Essentially a huge black sausage, the first ever Black Pudding was confirmed to have been made in 1868 with emulations of the German "Blutwurst". The guttural harsh Germanic tones do not embody this delicacy in the same way as calling it a "pudding" really. Legend has it, in the 14th Century, two Bavarian butchers went a little Über crazy on absinthe and decided to invent Black Pudding whilst intoxicated. Now I have made some legendary and innovative meals, snacks and canapes when drunk, but I believe that the two Metzgers were onto something big (a Metzger is a butcher in German by the way and the only occupation that ever got me through my German speaking exam. Mein Frau actually did believe my dad was a self employed butcher for 5 years).

People may think that we have some sort of problem that we want to eat a cauldron of boiled pigs blood, lard, suet (double the fat), bread, dried potato and porridge. I love it how on the actual label it just blankets the ingredients and calls it "fat filler" to provide a lipid canvas across it.

We actual come off lightly when we need to be thankful that we do not have to commit to the food extremities of China, who find it perfectly normal to offer Chicken Feet Soup, Deer's Penis and Boiled Snake's blood on most menu's.

We are most familiar with our Pud as part of our Full English Breakfast. Sometimes this can be a case of negligence as the Pudding is ultimately an afterthought and becomes an overcooked lump of fat smearing it's way across your nice white dinner plate like thick eyeliner.

The past 5 years in particular have seen a resurgence in the popularity of Black Pudding. Ferran Adria, the daddy of molecular gastronomy and 3 times Michelin star owner of the ridiculously gorgeous El Bulli in Spain, has made Morcilla (their black pudding) probably more sexy than a Shakira Video. Adria offers his customers gutsy flavours, with mounds of earthy textures and solid and robust produce. In the med, the Spaniards enjoy "morcilla" which is a fiesta of blood, breadcrumbs but to up the ante- pine nuts and almonds. Adria puts a Catalan twist on the Full English and also likes to serve the Morcilla with steeped winter fruits. When you have only 8,000 places at your restaurant but 2 million requests per year it is easy to see why so many gastro pubs are drooling across the med for a piece of the pudding.

Back in PuddingVision and across the Baltic Sea to Sweden who are letting the side down. Home of the stunningly beautiful, Sony Erikkson and the Billy Bookcase. Sweden's versions have literal translation's including blood soup and blood pancakes. It is hardly any wonder why we tolerate jam flavoured meat in Ikea. I would accept strawberry pork over blood soup everyday.

With the kids though, its the blood that puts them off the taste completely. One of my students used a healthy simile that "it would be like eating a nose bleed". I see your point.

The French have got the vocabulary spot on with the smoulderingly sexy "Boudin Noir" anything with the word Noir in it for me, postulates decadence and luxury. Sliced on the slightly larger side, and fried in Beurre Noisette, lovingly cuddled in the finest tart Normandy Apples, squashed by a scoop of creamy pomme puree. I hate to say it, but the French truly do know a thing a trois about la Gastronomique.

The Pudding Eurovision treatment has meant that the market traders of Bury are rubbing their fingerless gloves together. Black Pudding is firmly on the map. I would now hope that Bury are twinned off with a worthy town of Europe, I would hate to see them end up Nordically challenged with the fruity meatballs.

Back to blighty.

As an avid user of Bury Black Pudding, I am embarrassed to admit that I simply treat mine like a regular sausage and tend to fry or grill it. As a true Lancastrian, I need some moisture with my food. There is no taste of blood in my pud. I can appreciate the "bang" found in a Christmas Cracker, Cinnamon Golden Grahams, Coal, Tinned Bacon Slices and smoky pallets at the bottom of a bonfire. The fatty deposits of lard glistening like diamonds in mud, bursting plentiful in the pan. Bon goút!!

A recipe that I make that I have stolen from a another North-West legend is that of Paul Heathcote's take on Sausage and Bean Stew using Black Pudding.

Since visiting the East Coast of the USA 7 years ago, I have never been able to eat baked beans without yearning for the sicklier and slicker version of Boston Baked Beans.

Into a heated casserole pan of olive oil and crushed garlic, salt and pepper go the shiny, bulbous haricot beans. Add the sweet flavours from the Molasses, the heady wafts from the mustard and bay leaf and throw in a can of tomatoes for a deliciously acidic punch. Whack a lid on and leave to form a Geyser for over 2 hours to ensure maximum viscosity. Should you need it, you can be a true brit and add a few teaspoons of brown sugar to your brew. We won't tell.

Don't be shy with your portions of the black pudding here. Cut past the inch and grill. You can even be a Francophile and concassé this if you wish and fry. Whatever you do -slather in the rich Boston Baked Beans.

Ferran may be the King of the Kitchen, but Bury.....we salute you.

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