Morcilla, boudin noir, blutwurst, black pudding, call it what you will, it’s sausage made of blood and I love it. The bloodier the better, as far as I’m concerned. I used to think, by the way, that black pudding was a silly thing to call it, it not being a pudding and all, but I have to say I’ve become almost as fond of it as a name as I am of the thing it describes. For it’s mild idiosyncracy, which seems somehow wholly appropriately British; for it’s capacity to both mislead and encourage small children into trying it; and for it’s perverse accuracy: a good black pudding should be soft and crumbly and really quite sweet. Just like a proper pudding should. In fact, with its high oatmeal content, traditional British black pudding is pretty close to being a pig’s blood flapjack, and although that may not exactly make it a pudding, it’s pretty close to being cake. Which seems close enough.
And come to think of it, the Italians do make a pudding out of pig’s blood, although I haven’t come across it in sausage form. It’s called sanguinaccio, and it’s essentially a sweet paste of dark chocolate and blood. I had it once at Bocca di Lupo in Soho, and, once you’ve got over its powerful resemblance to an admittedly very grown up form of Nutella, it’s fantastically good. In a slightly sinful, even sinister sort of a way. And I couldn’t eat much of it, I have to say, no matter how good – it really is about the richest substance I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.
For the purposes of this blog post I’ll be sticking to the more regular kinds of blood sausage, be they from Spain (or Garcia’s on the Portobello Road in this instance) or Bury. The first, most obvious, and maybe still the best way to enjoy it is as a component of a traditional fry up, of course. And I’m not going to patronise anyone by telling them how to do that. But probably a lot of us Brits tend to think that weekend breakfasts are where uses for black pudding start and end, and that’s such a waste of an ingredient.
Think in terms of Spanish morcilla, rather than homely old black pudding, and not only does the thing itself suddenly seem fancier (in the same way that appending the word Toulouse to a sausage, or calling it a ‘salsiccia’ makes it seem so much more respectable, glamorous even, than a domestic banger) but more ways of making use of it suddenly become apparent. Not least in its suddenly obvious pairing with chorizo. And it’s still cheap, even more so because, thanks to its density and depth of flavour, a little goes a long way (which is, if anything, even more true of the admittedly rather less cheap chorizo). And it doesn’t require lengthy cooking either, so it’s ideal for making a quick, easy and cheap midweek supper in the form of a generally Iberian style stew, that will look, feel and taste much fancier and labour intensive than it actually is.
You can mix this up and bulk it out with really whatever you have to hand: potatoes, beans, chickpeas, a combination thereof; throw in peppers, mushrooms, cabbage. It’s all good, and all easy. I feel silly even setting down a recipe, but here’s a broad outline:
Cut your black pudding/morcilla and your chorizo (spicy or sweet, or both, why not?) into good thick slices and briefly fry (first the chorizo, then add the morcilla). Add garlic, a little fresh chilli (modify the amount according to preference and whether and how hot your spicy chorizo might be), onions, also sliced thickly, and peppers if you’re using them. Once the onions (and peppers) are starting to soften add cherry tomatoes (or you can use tinned, but if so, be sparing, and add later, at the beans/potato stage), halved and mushrooms and fry a bit more (till the tomato skins are shrivelling) then add beans, chickpeas and/or potatoes (I’d tend to use new potatoes which will keep their structure, and to speed things along I will generally par boil them and add them at this point along with a ladle or two of their cooking water. You might want to add a touch of paprika at this point, but there will probably be enough oozing out of the chorizo. Add some stock, probably chicken but it’s not critical, or use cider instead. Cover the pan and cook it all together for about 20 minutes to half an hour, or until the potatoes are done. If you want to add cabbage, do it towards the end, just at the point when you judge the potatoes need just a few minutes more, throw the coarsely shredded cabbage in and recover the pan. Serve in a bowl with some good bread on the side.
Or leave the potatoes out of the stew, and serve them on the side, plain boiled or, my preference, sautéed. The stew in this case will cook even quicker.
Another great natural pairing for back pudding, as well as chorizo (and you can combine them all) is squid. Again it may help to think morcilla here. I have in the past stuffed squid tubes with a combination of diced black pudding, chorizo, bacon, prawns, pine nuts and the squid’s own tentacles and my god it was delicious, but also a contender, along with sanguinaccio for richest thing ever in my mouth. Almost too much so. Do try it, but I’d recommend using only baby squid – anything more, even an adolescent squid, is running the risk of being too much of a very good thing…
Or you can just avoid all the fiddliness of stuffing and do as I’ve done here: effectively a stir fry of squid and black pudding with sweet peppers. First I cut a medium sized squid (one with a tube approximately 6-8” long) per head into good sized chunks and marinade in garlic, chilli, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I start frying with some shredded bacon, then the squid, adding the sliced black pudding when the squid has just started turning opaque and curling. Then I throw in thickly sliced onion and peppers and fry together till they’re nicely softened. Add a splash of white wine to liberate any tasty bits that have got stuck to the base of the pan and incorporate them into just a trickle of sauce, stir it all together, and serve with boiled or sautéed potatoes.