Due to the joys of the working week, breakfast is a typically pedestrian affair – one of need, not one of enjoyment. If I were far better organised, had more time, or company to share the morning with- I would most definitely favour a more north or central European approach- cheese, selection of breads, cold cuts of meat etc. When travelling in Europe, breakfast is the very first thing I look forward to – and, for good reason. It is a hell of a lot more interesting and varied. Sure, I can opt for a cardiac-arrest in the making, artery clogging English fry-up – but it is really too much for me.
Sadly, breakfast from Monday to Friday is a purely functional experience. A typical bleary-eyed morning may start with a double espresso, followed by ablutions, then another coffee and some cereal-related offering – it is fuel, and little else – and me being far more a fan of savoury foods means that I simply fail to get excited about it. I find it boring and predictable. Wow, one muesli has a lightly different variation of nuts and fruits than another. Some fair trade water washed granola, hand picked by the goddess of longevity, guaranteeing eternal life (ok, this is a tad fabricated) gets boring too after a while. Now, brunch and weekends are happy times – time is not an issue, and more often than not I have the opportunity to fill myself up with something before a cycle ride – my other extra-curricular activity (aside from cooking) which gives me a lot of satisfaction. My brunch ideas to date have largely had egg as a primary ingredient – I felt like a change and wanted to experiment with black pudding.
Black pudding , for some reason, fills some people with horror. “Eeew – that is disgusting” – not an uncommon reaction when bringing up the subject and that blood is a core ingredient. Sure, there are some things I do not like the idea of, but if I let that shape all my food choice decisions I would have a far more scarce list of ingredients at my disposal. Recently. The Guardian newspaper published: ‘Is black pudding a ‘must-eat’ British food?. Black pudding, it seems is a experiencing a renaissance and gaining in popularity with chefs and advocates alike. It is incredibly versatile, easy to prepare, and dare I say it, good for you (depending of course who you ask). I’d like to also point out that black pudding is not just indigenous to the UK. According to the aforementioned article, in Norway it is known as blodpølse; the French have boudin noir; morcilla is served in Latin America and Spain; and kashanka in Poland.
So, what is it? In a nutshell, Blood Sausage and is a typically combination of onion, pork fat, pork blood, flavourings and oatmeal. Of course there are variations. Furthermore, it is not some new-fangled culinary fad- it has been around for over 2,800 years. For anyone interested in its history, I would highly recommend reading the following ‘History of the Black Pudding‘ from the Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company. In Homer’s Odessy, it was written:
“As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted…”.
In an attempt to fast forward to the present day (no, I do not live in a cave or beat to death roaming animals for sustenance when entering ‘hunter/gatherer mode), I first encountered black pudding as a gastronomic offering (as opposed to the least popular item on a fry-up menu), when in Reims 4 years ago with my father. Once a year, we used to go on our version of a booze cruise, which meant staying a couple of nights somewhere different in France or Belgium, and returning with a boot load of wine, Normandy cider and slightly more obscure or and better value (compared to the UK, at least) cooking ingredients. One evening, we both chose as a starter Boudin Noir – or French black pudding, served with apple and Calvados. Whilst I cannot vividly remember either the presentation of the dish or all the components, I wanted to pay homage to it in the form of a brunch recipe. Preamble and history lesson over, I really hope you enjoy my Black pudding, sautéed apple, red onion and rocket ciabatta recipe as much as I did making it at the weekend.
Black pudding, sautéed apple, red onion and rocket ciabatta
- 4 x 1cm thick slices black pudding
- 2 x rectangular ciabatta rolls, sliced lengthways
- 1.5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 x sweet, firm apple (Braeburn) cut into 3mm thick horizontal rings, pips removed.
- 1 medium red onion, sliced into horizontal rings
- small knob of butter
- 2 tbsp brandy
- small handful rocket leaves
- 1 x tsp balsamic vinegar
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- First, heat up a griddle pan to a moderate to high heat. Brush the halves of the ciabatta with olive oil, then griddle with the middle facing down until slightly brown. Remove from griddle and spread a thin layer of the wholegrain Dijon mustard on the bottom slice.
- Next, melt the butter with a drizzle of olive oil, and sauté the apple slices for 2 x minutes each side. Then, pour over the brandy, the ignite and stand well back. Once the flames have died down, carefully remove the apple slices and loosely wrap in foil to keep warm.
- Reduce the heat slightly, and lay down the slices of black pudding and griddle for 4-5 minutes, turning occasionally. When just about there, turn off the heat and start assembling.
- Place a black pudding slice side by side, then later an apple slice, red onion ring slice, then apple, and finish with red onion. Season with freshly ground sea salty and black pepper.
- Scatter the rocket leaves (on other half of the griddled ciabatta) and drizzle with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and ground black pepper.
- Finally, serve with a side salad or a Celeriac remoulade.