Thursday, May 10, 2012

Black Pudding Toasts

A couple of days ago I wrote a menu and decided to try and test and develop every item thereon. Well this is the first shot. At the top of my menu, under the sub-heading 'bites' are a few different dishes that I will call 'pub toasts'. These can also be called 'savouries on toasts' as Gordon Ramsay refers to them (Marco Pierre White, less imaginatively calls them 'things on toast'). In Ramsay's book "Great British Pub Food", he writes, "Back in the days when gentleman's clubs were prevalent, small portions of savouries on toasts took the place of sweet puddings as an alternate way to end a meal." Now, these little bites no longer end a meal, but tend to either replace the meal in its entirety (allowing more intestinal vacancy for sudsy pints), or in a more refined sense, they are a perfect starter to a meal.

In Kate Colquhoun's 'Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking', she relates this 1782 observation by a German tourist in England:

"...the slices of bread and butter given to you with tea are as thin as poppy leaves, but there is a way of roasting slices of buttered bread before the fire which is incomparable. One slice after another is taken and held to the fire with a fork. This is called 'toast'."

Could there be anything more quintessentially British than toast? Moreover, what better topping for toast than a dark, salty treat like black pudding. I have written about black pudding in the past here and here. I purchase mine from my local butcher shop (Close to the Bone). The pudding is made right here in Toronto. To those who are uninitiated, the chief ingredient of black pudding is pig's blood. The blood is stuffed into a sausage casing along with salt, cubed pork fat and various other seasonings and fillers such as bread crumbs or traditionally in the UK, oatmeal. For this reason, it is certainly not something you typically see being made in a home kitchen. Yet, there are some who argue that it is not out of reach of the home cook given that one has purchased a share of, or whole, live pig (something becoming more and more common these days). Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall describes the process, 

"Making your own blood sausage is not for the faint-hearted. You may be dealing with the blood of your own pigs, ideally on the very day of slaughter, while it is still warm. For me, however, getting down to business and making blood sausage is the best therapy for the inevitable stresses of slaughter day."

Black pudding is considered offal and is an excellent example of nose-to-tail eating. Anyway, there's not much to making black pudding toasts, so here's what you need to do:

Find a good purveyor of black pudding, and buy a whole link. Cut the string that connects the two ends, and then cut off a good three or four inch piece. Take a sharp knife and score the side of the piece you have cut off - this will allow you to 'unwrap' the paper or casing material (which if left on, will warp the shape of the sausage as it cooks). Then get a non-stick pan going with a good knob of butter. Use a medium heat; if it's too hot the pudding will just melt away to nothing. You want it to retain its integrity. Slice your hunk of sausage into quarter inch thick slices and get them into that butter. Let them sizzle for a while and then carefully flip them. They are very delicate - I find a proper fish slice works best for turning black pudding. Then let the other side sizzle for a while. You're looking for an exterior crust with a bit of 'snap' and a creamy middle. In the mean time, get some bread lightly toasted.  When your satisfied with the doneness, remove the blood pudding from the pan and set aside for a moment (again, do so carefully so it doesn't completely fall apart), keep the heat on the pan and drop your toast into the pan with the butter and rendered fat from the blood pudding. You're looking to slightly fry the toast...just a little frying though; take the toast to a deeper mahogany. Once satisfied, get the toast on plate and get the pudding on the toast. I like to squash and spread the pudding slightly with back of a fork - you'll get a good mix of the creamy bits and the crunchy bits. Then pour whatever remnants of butter remain in the pan right on to the toast. Garnish with a few drops of Lea & Perrins, some coarsely ground black pepper and if you want a vegetable, a few parsley leaves will do nicely.

One of my all time favourite things to eat by far.

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