Black Pudding: Superfood! Sort of. (With recipes and videos on frying!)
Good news, everyone! Black pudding is a superfood! Kind of. Almost. Maybe. Okay, it’s not so much an official superfood, but it’s got some good things going on. Why is this important? It’s not! Except that I just really love researching old timey foods and trying them, and in the process I learned I love this food. So let’s talk about it and why it’s good and why maybe it’s not!
(Note: this particular article, as it’s not being published in an actual magazine or journal or whatnot, was written entirely under the influence of stout. I’ll happily do the second edit if anyone wants it for anything official – until then, it should work – hopefully.)
Let’s be up front. Another term for black pudding is blood sausage. It’s mostly pig blood (usually, but can be any animal), oatmeal, some onion, and flavoring. I get why people think it’s gross from the name, but like everything else in the world, once it’s fried, it’s really good!
So why do I love old nasty foods like this? I have no idea! Other than it’s one of the few truly spiritual aspects of my life. Researching and re-enacting things that my ancestors would have eaten or physically done gives me a connection to the past that I like to have as a counter-balance to the practicality and enjoyment of using the scientific method as a tool for the future. (Take a look at my Facebook page – my profile and background pictures are from the Scottish Highland Games I participated in last summer.) To paraphrase Arthur Herman in his excellent book How the Scots Invented the Modern World, I very much like the philosophy of looking to the future while having my feet firmly rooted through the past.
Besides blood pudding, I’ve also worked out a wonderful recipe for beef heart and have tried many other foods that many consider nasty (eel pie, stargazy pie, and banana sandwiches for example). Really, though, if prepared well, they can be quite tasty!
Imagine my joy, then, as I perused an article on Irish Central’s website back in early January 2016 that hailed Irish black pudding as a superfood. Back on January 6th, the article came out and I was ecstatic to learn that one of my favorite “odd” foods was going to help keep me immortal. According to the article, it has great protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc, as well as being low in carbs for those on the paleo/Atkins/etc. diets.
Naturally, Irish butchers were overjoyed to hear such news, as were butchers from many cultures. After all, black pudding has similar nutritional traits regardless of where it is made. I get mine from a local German butcher and it’s the same recipe (I’ve asked) as I have in my Irish and British cookbooks.
But hold the presses! Just a couple of weeks later, Irish Central came out with another article that, sadly, took away some of the superfood attributes. It turns out that the food was considered super through the Muscle Foods website and was added due to customer search numbers. So while the above nutritional values still hold, that doesn’t mean it’s all that super, especially when you consider the health detriments red and processed meats can have, in addition to the calories that frying adds.
So what is one to do? Honestly, I hate the term “all in moderation,” but I must admit that here it has its place. You’ll be fine enjoying some black pudding if you keep it calm and not over-indulge with any of them. I enjoy my full fry-up (see below) on occasion, but try to limit it (I don’t always succeed). One can always use less of the black pudding, as well, by incorporating it into other foods so not as much is used, allowing for some of the good and not as much of the bad.
So please allow me to share with you two of the recipes I use black puddings for, as well as how I fry the black pudding up. The first is the “full American fry-up,” my United States take on the full English or full Irish breakfast. The second is an adjustment to the black pudding and goat cheese pizza given in the Irish Central superfood article.
For a great idea of what the full fry-up is, check out Anglotopia’s video that I’ve inserted just above. Hopefully they are okay with my use of their video, as I don’t make money here and it gives them a wee bit more profile. (Hint hint hint, Anglotopia.) Since some of the ingredients are hard to find in the states, though, I’ve improvised. I know black pudding isn’t the easiest for all to find, but I do not have a good substitute for it; honestly, I’m not sure I would try, but would rather just leave it out. Rashers and British bacon are not the easiest for me to find, so I typically use American bacon (thin or thick sliced depending on my mood) and use… Spam! Speaking of foods some people may think sound gross, it’s really not! I usually use the hot and spicy kind, but the regular also is excellent and the low fat is decent. Also, instead of the more tomato based baked beans from the Isles, I use American baked beans with the more BBQ sauce style. I’ve had the British and I like it, but having grown up in the USA, I can’t help that my tastes run more to the American bean style.
Frying black pudding -- with James Slaven
To make, I just heat up a slight bit of oil in a pan and then fry the bacon first (I think it stays the best out of all the other items, after having sat a bit). Then I fry the black pudding (video below!) and Spam together, along with mushrooms (they are great fried up in the oil!) with sauce (sometimes Worcestershire and sometimes A1 – regular or something spicy), and then finish up with a couple of eggs (nothing fries an egg like bacon grease!). While the eggs fry up, I toast some bread or an English muffin and add butter and maybe jam/jelly. (I also use salt and pepper to season the Spam, black pudding, and eggs, as well as the mushrooms plus garlic salt.)
Black pudding and mushrooms - with James Slaven
Pretty simple, eh! (Note: I’ve seen videos and images of huge thick black puddings – all I’ve worked with are the smaller in radii – I’m guessing the method is similar, but have no proof.)
I have adjusted the black pudding and goat cheese pizza recipe as given in the Irish Central article (with original recipe website given below in “further reading” from Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board site). I use an olive oil sauce base, as the red sauce takes away from the wonderfully full black pudding taste, and also add a bit of pineapple, as its sweetness has a nice clash with the meatiness of the black pudding and the richness of the goat cheese.
Olive oil base: mix 1 large garlic clove (I use minced garlic, so make sure to watch number of teaspoons), two tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, ¼ teaspoon crushed red peppers (or less if you don’t like heat), and a few shakes of salt (I use Kosher, but sea or regular works) together and spread over pizza crust.
Toppings: olive oil base, two or three small sliced Roma tomatoes (in the picture you’ll see I drizzled some tomato sauce – I left the tomatoes at the grocery store this last time around), four or five slices fried Spam (the original recipe calls for bacon, but that’s a waste of bacon I think – bacon is great by itself or on a hamburger), five or six slices fried black pudding which is then crumbled up, two to four ounces of pineapple, and four tablespoons of goat cheese, plus any extra Italian seasonings you want on top in addition to the olive oil base. Then cook as told to on pizza crust instructions!
Now… who wants my baked beef heart and mushroom-stout-dressing recipe?
Further Reading and References
How the Scots Invented the Modern World – Arthur Herman (2001)