Dark magic for an autumn breakfast

TRAVELLING chef Philippa Davis spent Hallowe’en in Scotland where she swopped the spooky delights of pumpkin pie for the deeper and more complex seasonal flavours of a traditional breakfast.

Guests on shooting parties in the Highlands usually expect a cooked breakfast, often a comprehensive menu including scrambled garden eggs, streaky bacon and avocado or black pudding, fried duck egg, granary toast and apple jam.

Black pudding, once a regional speciality largely eschewed by restaurants in the cities, has been embraced and promoted by chefs and food writers including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fergus Henderson.

Philippa is also a fan: “Having long been a great admirer of black pudding and its Spanish spicier cousin morcilla, I thought it would be fun to go and watch it being made.  Most importantly I think it is delicious but I also have the approach that if the animal is going to be killed and eaten then we should use as much of it as possible, including the blood.”

Her first job in London was at Lidgate butchers in Holland Park, so Philippa was comfortable with butcher’s banter and happily set off to  William Ovens in Lanarkshire, “a local butcher to the good folk of Biggar, whose haggis is so good private jets have been charted in to collect them, but that’s another story…”

The two butchers Iain and Ian, presided over by the boss Jimmy Bogle happily welcomed her in to witness the weekly Tuesday making of the 22 kilos of black pudding they sell every week.

“‘You’re  not squeamish  are you? Iain inquired with a glint in his eye as he came out the cold room with a big bucket of blood. I am not at all squeamish, unless of course I am presented with a child’s nappy to change, so we pressed on.

“Firstly they take beef suet, which is kidney fat, and run it through a mincer with 10 litres of cooked blood. Next into the mammoth mixing bucket goes about 12 oz of fine sea salt, 7 lbs of oatmeal, and a good few handfuls of seasoning that includes cloves and cinnamon. It’s given a good mix around, then a 3 litre bucket of one or two day old blood is poured in. Surprisingly the blood was ox’s and not the more commonly used pig’s.

“Once fully stirred the mixture gets packed into the sausage machine and is pumped into the skins that have been soaked for about half an hour to make them more pliable. They are cooked in a water bath at 80C for two hours before being cooled down to sell.

“This is unlikely to be something I ever try at home unless I want to reenact The Good Life, but it was extremely interesting to watch.”

Aside from breakfast, Philippa suggests serving black pudding fried as part of a salad with spiced buttered quince and frisee lettuce with mustard dressing or crumbled and tossed through a hearty thick ribboned pasta with cream, parmesan, chopped watercress and egg yolks.