Its in the blood

Long before it became trendy to serve black pudding with scallops and other seafood in that weird, trendy surf and turf, black pudding has been my soul food. You see I may be Australian by choice but I’m British by birth, Celtic by heritage and importantly black pudding has long been a favored family treat. Getting the right black pudding or one that tastes of my memories has however been a little more difficult with blood puddings varying greatly between pork consuming cultures, each having their own delicious variations on the theme.Black Pudding

For starters, the Silesian pudding of my adopted homeland of South Australia’s  Barossa Valley is more commonly referred to as Ricewurst and while delicious it has a fine grainy texture very different to the sausage I am so fond of. Similarly San Jose smallgoods in nearby Adelaide make an amazing Spanish style morcilla that eats like a delicious hot liver pate, but it is far richer than I am used too. Then there are the seriously spicy black puddings served as part of a Balinese  Babi Guling feast,  and of course not to be forgotten the French by have their beautiful feather light boudin noir rich with cream and bound with white bread crumbs, but none of these measure up to memories of the black pudding of my childhood.

For a long time I wondered how real the food memories of my youth were,  especially after re-reading Jane Grigson’s disparaging comments about British style black puddings in the classic book Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery (still the definitive authority on the subject for my money!) for her they are too solid, stodgy and  heavy with oats and barley  to be enjoyable but she included a recipe just for comparison.

Interestingly the recipe she reproduced is the closest I have seen to one given to me by my Irish grandmother when I first started  cooking professionally over 35 years ago. Culturally Nanny Mac’s  recipe sits about halfway between the English and French variations, heavy with barley and oats as the British but fragrantly spiced and lightened with cream like the French.  I have made this recipe in the past a few times with varying levels of success, however recently I decided to revisit the recipe and the results were  fantastic.

black pudding in the panSo what was different….Yes I had taken  a little more care with measurements, used  a finer grade of oatmeal and  adjusted  salt and seasoning levels, but a key difference was that the blood I used no longer came via a local butcher. Rather following a conversation with sausage guru and colleague Neil Jewell I discovered a new source . Neil recommended I try  pigs blood jelly (congealed pigs blood, available at most  Chinese grocers) suggesting it should  easily liquefy in a blender and could then treated as fresh blood.

The results as mentioned were a triumph, so much so that when a group of local winemakers recently requested a short charcuterie workshop, I included my reworking of Nan’s black pudding as part of the class and I’m glad to say the results were better than ever.  The texture and taste were exactly as remembered, firm but light, crispy and lacy with meltingly tender cubes of fat. More than that the slices  were not in the least oily or greasy, kept their  shape in the pan and didn’t crumble like so many others.

So following is Nans recipe, it has a little more detail than the original which called for a pint of blood, half pint of cream and a couple of handfuls of oatmeal, all heavily seasoned, but it is essentially one and the same. Moreover it is ridiculously simple and can easily be prepared in even the most basic kitchen with just a stick blender, some scales, bowls, a jug and a funnel. So try them either with fried apples, potatoes and onions (pictured below) or as I most fondly recall, if the season permits with sweet ripe tomatoes fried until mushy in lard with lots of white pepper.

black pudding with apples

 Nanny Mac’s Irish Black Pudding or Drisheen

1 runner  of large hog casings 
80g                  pork back fat – in small dice
45g                  onion – chopped fine (approx. ½ small onion)
250ml             cream
20g                  salt
8g                    pepper
2g                    nutmeg
2g                    thyme
2g                    ground coriander
Pinch              ground clove
500ml            pig’s blood (or 1 pkt Pig’s Blood Jelly)
250g               fine oatmeal
100g               barley – soaked and cooked


  • Soak runners (sausage skins)  overnight in plenty of cold water with a little lemon juice
  • Render half the fat in a small pan and gently sweat onion until soft – do not colour, add cream and all seasonings and simmer for 2-3 minutes, using a stick blender process smooth – allow to cool and reserve
  • If using blood jelly, process smooth and add cooled cream mixture – mix well, Stir into oatmeal and add cooked barley and remaining reserved fat
  • Knot one end of runner and using a jug and funnel pour blood mixture into casing allowing room for expansion during cooking (to at least twice its size) tie off other end making sure no air is trapped.   Tie off into sections or loops using string ensuring each sausage section is only half filled
  • Place a large pan of water on the stove and bring to a simmer, place  puddings into water just below simmering point and allow sausages to set for about 15 minutes – do not allow to boil or sausages will burst
  • Remove sausages from pot and transfer to a pan of cold water for 5-10 minutes to arrest cooking. While still warm rub with melted lard to seal pudding and prevent drying out, refrigerate until required.
  • When cold slice about 1cm thick and fry in a hot pan until crisp on each side.