Black pudding is a traditional delicacy in certain parts of the country, typically Northern England. Here for example is a chalkboard I saw outside a delicatessen in the Peak District town of Ashbourne back in November 1996:
It made delicious reading:
The real thing, dry cured on the farm from free range pigs - you'll be back for more!!
From the same farm - terrific!!
This farmer is a busy man! El yummo sausages - plain pork or delicious flavours.
REAL FREE RANGE EGGS
From happy hens in Whatstandwell. Size 2 for only 75p ½ doz - great value!
HONEY ROAST HAM
We do our own! It tastes and smells brilliant! Hurry up - we sell out quickly!!
Cut from the block - unsalted!!
SPLENDID LOCAL CHEESE
Inc Stilton etc.
YUMMY RUNNY BRIE
And large range of cheeses.
AWARD WINNING WELSH PATÉS
Whole poached salmon. Whole beef fillet en croute, etc.
EXCEPTIONAL CATERING *** SERVICE PAR EXCELLENCE!
Well! That's how it is Up North. Lucky, lucky people! I wanted to go in and buy, but we (Mum, Dad and M---) were staying at a hotel at Matlock Bath and couldn't have kept the goodies cold and fresh. Sigh. But I intend to take the caravan to the Peak District one day, maybe in 2016. Get ready, Ashbourne. I'm coming!
Black pudding is usually bought as a kind of sausage that you cut up and cook. It's made of various things, but beef blood is a major ingredient, and that single fact often puts people off, as if it oozes gore when being fried. It doesn't, of course, any more than cooking hearts or kidneys or livers involves a close encounter with the red stuff. I'm partial to any food like this. But I particularly enjoy black pudding.
However the best black pudding experience, the best flavour, the best makers, won't usually be found in high street supermarkets. Tasty and high-grade black pudding is mainly found in farm shops, or the specialist village or small-town shop that sell deli-type food. Still, even Sainsbury's has offered large flat North Country roundels of black pudding, which look good on the plate, and possess a decentish flavour. Here's a shot of mine from December 2008. Black pudding from Sainsbury's at Newhaven. It was a solitary winter lunch at Piddinghoe, just for myself, in the Cottage:
And here are some meals - at my present home now - made with black pudding, dating from May and October 2010:
As you can see, the pudding is all the same kind: a crumbly black cake with little bits of fat in it. It certainly cooks up well, and can be very tasty. It's the sort you'll generally get when having breakfast at a café. As I did, in this next shot, taken in 2012 at Debenhams in Brighton:
But now I've discovered a new type of black pudding. Irish Black Pudding!
If you remember I'd resolved not to buy fresh milk from Waitrose in Burgess Hill again, because its freshness was unreliable. I'd spoken to them about it, and had been brushed off with a smile. I was told that their milk-handling procedures were perfect, and followed to the letter, and I must be wrong when I suggested that perhaps things were not so well-managed at Burgess Hill, compared with other Waitroses around the country, where there was never any problem. I was politely fobbed off.
So, despite being a Waitrose fan, I'd made up my mind to not to buy my milk from their Burgess Hill store any more. I speculated on whether this might eventually mean transferring my loyalty to another shop.
And of course, it's started to happen. Silly, silly Waitrose! They're losing a very good customer, all because they wouldn't take me seriously on that sour milk issue. Oh, I dare say I'll still use them once a week for fresh fish and meat, and the particular olives I like. After all, I like to go to other shops in Burgess Hill, such as Boots, Bonmarché, Clarkes Stationers, and some others. But I may now do my main food shopping elsewhere.
In fact I've begun to frequent Budgens at another nearby small town. It means a fifteen-minute drive, as opposed to a seven-minute one, but it's a pleasant country drive with no traffic lights or other urban hold-ups - a clear run for the car - and in fact much kinder to Fiona's engine and battery on a cold day.
I did a full shop there two days ago. Budgens had everything on my list. And although Budgens is not a cut-price retailer, the bill wasn't as much as it would have been at Waitrose. I had intended to drive on to Waitrose, if I couldn't get all I wanted from Budgens. But there was no need. Sorry, Waitrose! You lost out there. And Budgens' milk is properly looked after.
There's no sentiment in business. There's also no sentiment in shopping. Either a shop has what you want, reliably, every time, or it fails - and of course you then go elsewhere.
Anyway, Budgens were selling this:
Clonakilty Black Pudding, 200g, apparently made at Clonakilty, which is a coastal town on the N71 south-west of Cork. In a part of Ireland I'd dearly like to go touring in, with my caravan, if ever I can afford the cost of the Fishguard-Rosslare ferry. Here's their website: http://www.clonakiltyblackpudding.ie/.
Not that I'm personally worried, but this is a gluten-free product. 100g of it contains 273 kcal. Ingredientwise it contains oatmeal, onions, Irish beef fat, water, dried blood, natural spices, and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Stated differently, that's 5g of fibre, 11g of protein, 16g of fat, and 18g of carbohydrate. Sugar and salt content is 2g apiece.
Half of that sausage - 100g - gives you three slices to cook, quite enough for one. The remaining half can be frozen for another day.
The major difference between this kind of black pudding, and what you might call the 'North of England kind', is the inclusion of the oatmeal. This toasts in the frying pan, and gives each slice a distinctive flavour that I'd not experienced before, and liked very much. Here's the endgame on my first breakfast made with this Clonakilty product:
It was yesterday morning. One fried egg, and three slices of this new type of black pudding. I'd dabbed some Heinz Tomato Ketchup onto my plate, but it wasn't really needed: the egg yolk and the pudding were already a perfect match, and the ketchup seemed like an unnecessary and tiresome interloper. But visually the black, yellow and red made a great photo. Let's have a close-up:
Now you can clearly see the toasted oatmeal. You might think the oatmeal would make the pudding too crumbly, but it fact it was never in danger of falling apart.
It was such a treat for the Melford tastebuds that I had the rest for this morning's breakfast, this time with two plum tomatoes out of a tin:
As they say in Ashbourne, fabbo!
And now it's time for some lunch! Just two Ryvita crackers, a few olives, a little cheese and an apple. But tonight it's fish - haddock fillet - with one small new potato and a sprig of broccoli. I generally alternate meat-fish-meat-fish for my main meals in the evening, or more specifically red meat-fish-white meat-fish. Tomorrow night, however, I'm up in Croydon, meeting up with former work colleagues, and I think it'll be tapas at a Spanish restaurant. It'll be interesting socially - watch out for the post!