Black pudding has long been a staple of the full Scottish breakfast but did you know how it began? Back in the days before trains, cattle were brought from the hills down to market in Central Scotland, even as far as London, on the hoof. Those who guided the cattle en route were Drovers, many of whom emigrated during the Clearances to become the cowboys of North America. These drovers were experts in cattle handling and lived a hard life. One of their staple foods was to ‘let’ a little fresh blood from a cow – sufficient to sustain them but insufficient to harm the cow. To this bowl of blood they would stir in oatmeal and heat. Voila, the origins of black pudding.
Over the years it has become industrialised and although still popular it is not what it once was due to mass production and dried blood imports. The key issue is the disappearance of small abattoirs across Scotland. The original method requires fresh blood from the animals at slaughter and this becomes impossible if the beasts are taken long distances from the butcher/charcuterie/curer.
For a good black pudding, support your local butcher and pick your favourite one. There are a number of very tasty ones but if you are interested in trying the Original Fresh Blood Scots Pudding that has been recognised internationally on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, then get yourself along to West Lothian where John, Linda and their 3 sons John, Stuart and Graham run three local butcher shops and John’s brother Russell rears award-winning beef and lamb on Midseat Farm nearby. The flavour is distinctively delicious and different, with a hint of gingerbread and a melt-in-mouth texture. http://johnlawsonbutchers.co.uk
This month I decided it was time to share this with our Scottish Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance so I offered to deliver to those interested, resulting in a couple of trips criss-crossing Scotland….with a bowl of soup here, a yummy slice of cake there… the great craic and Scots hospitality was greatly appreciated! We definitely made black pudding the talk o’ the steamie that week and here are a few snaps with thanks to the following chefs for the warm welcome we received and their enthusiasm…
Neil Forbes http://www.cafesthonore.com
David Haetzman https://firebrickbrasserie.co.uk
Carina Contini https://www.contini.com
Graeme Pallister http://www.63taystreet.com
Alison Abercrombie http://alibobatcairnomohr.co.uk
Paul Newman http://www.errichelhouseandrestaurant.co.uk
Peter McKenna of The Gannet, Hector Macrae of First Coast, & Colin Hinds of The Kilted Lobster.
For those wishing a black pudding recipe do click on the Scottish Field link here https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/food-anddrink/recipes/winter-warmer-black-pudding-seasonal-veg/
The Politics of meat and climate change are constantly in the news and whilst I thoroughly enjoy vegan and vegetarian dishes I am continually frustrated by the way in which the media lump together all meat when the spectrum is as wide as the Pacific.
Heritage breeds raised slowly and grazing as nature intended have nothing in common with commercial cattle, cross bred with continentals for bigger cuts, kept indoors or on feedlots on a diet of grain and supplements. In terms of flavour and texture, nutritional value and environmental impact, they cannot and should not be classified together – not on an ‘Eat Well’ guide nor on a BBC website as they were recently.
And while we are at it, the same can be said for industrialized chicken and mass-produced pork! We also need to pursue the need for more local abattoirs for respect to animals and the quality of the meat. I am pleased to see that debate is now being aired and hope it bears fruit.
After buzzing around with puddings we headed off for family time in Berlin, a truly fascinating and unique place that I am beginning to get to know. Cash is king, life is vibrant, markets are alive with people and produce and this climate of enterprise and enthusiasm extends to all aspects of the city.
First we headed over to a favourite, Van Loon, a fabulous moored restaurant on the canal in the hipster district of Kreuzberg. Immaculately fitted out with an upper deck for sunny days. We enjoyed the snugness below deck, watching the birdlife and admiring the ship’s exquisite carpentry!
With a menu of seafood, interesting salads, the signature Van Loon fish soup, and steaks, we dined on herring that, we were informed by the delightfully chatty owner, was also supplied to the Queen of Holland! It was certainly delicious and we watched whilst they prepared our dish in the open plan kitchen. They also do gastronomic river trips on their sister ship however on this occasion we could not manage – we shall save that for another time. http://vanloon.de/?lang=en
A visit to Markthalle Neun is a must – an indoor market with street food and cheeses, potatoes and pastries, charcuterie and seafood, crafts and coffees. Somehow the magnet of cheese drew me towards two fine exemplars: one selling exceptional Demeter sheep cheese from one dairy, the other Alte Milch where only raw milk cheeses were on sale…among them Cora Linn from Errington http://www.erringtoncheese.co.uk
For my birthday treat my wonderful daughter treated us to a Slow Food Berlin special, Herz & Niere (Heart & Kidney) where there were three menu options: Near & Far (lake fish and wild game), Nose to Tail (all offal) or Root to Blossom (for vegetarians daring to dine!). https://www.herzundniere.berlin/1/index.html Between the four of us we sampled them all with great relish and I would highly recommend the experience. My 4 courses included liver and kidney, heart and brains, all masterfully cooked to perfection with local ingredients and served with a rosehip cocktail. It was an education and a gastonomic experience. Such is their respect for all the animal, the knowledge of the staff and the ambience of the dining it has a winning combo. The wild and vegetarian options were also a triumph in design and flavours.
Berlin is rightly famous for its beautiful Christmas Markets with the scent of gluhwein in the air but for us Berlin is about family time and it was certainly that…however we all appreciate good food, both the lovely warming soups we had cooked for us at home and the fine dining we experienced out with loved ones – surely Slow Food at its best….so before we leave Berlin until next time I must tell you I ate the best pizza ever in a place five minutes from their flat! Its puffed handmade toasted dough, cooked in a wood oven of course, with ethically sourced toppings was light years from the mass produced pancake of a pizza chain…similarly to my meat rant…you cannot compare the two!
With our love and thanks to our Berliners, all our families and our Christmas greetings to you,
Wendy & Bosse
More Members’ News…
Glorious gift vouchers are now available to add to your wish list or gift to your loved ones from Ballintaggart. Choose from £25 for afternoon tea, gift a Cook School experience £125 for a Saturday Masterclass. £170 for bed and breakfast at Ballintaggart Farm or £150 for bed and breakfast at The Grandtully Hotel. https://ballintaggart.com
For an Edinburgh Hogmanay how about seeing in the New Year at Contini George Street or Cannonball Restaurant & Bar. They have limited availability for 9pm sittings so make sure you book soon to avoid disappointment. Following the success of last years launch of Cannonball’s Fish & Fizz head for their bar for a relaxed informal night with award-winning lobster mac n’ cheese and Prosecco. https://www.contini.com
Crinan Hotel is hosting a Hogmanay House Party complete with a boat trip to the isles! Join their 3 day house party with champagne reception, splendid food and great fiddler bringing in the bells at Crinan! https://www.crinanhotel.com
Do you love a challenge? Well Walkers have a Shortbread Biscuit Jigsaw for you!! The first person to purchase and send in a photo of the completed jigsaw will win a hamper. Get cracking and follow the link https://www.walkersshortbread.com/uk/
Prestonfield Gift Vouchers are still available online for Christmas: from a gracious afternoon tea to a stay in an opulent suite, there is an imaginative range to choose from. https://www.prestonfield.com
Sheila Fleet’s Kirk Gallery & Café are open until Christmas so still time to eat local Orcadian goodies in their lovely café, shop for a stunning piece of jewellery and see their magical Christmas tree….or online gifts if you are not in the vicinity. https://sheilafleet.com/shops/the-kirk-gallery-cafe-orkney
Whitmuir is open until lunchtime on Christmas Eve so there is still time to sort out last minute presents and ingredients – at time of posting there were a few turkeys left so you may be lucky! All deliveries and opening hours on their website https://www.whitmuir.scot
63 Tay Street has exceptionally delicious Christmas menus and a small availability left so book quick. Although normally closed on Mondays, they will be open on Christmas Eve for lunch and dinner. http://www.63taystreet.com
How about Hogmanay at Edinbane Lodge on Skye for an evening of food, drinks and entertainment?Their Tasting Menu for £80 per person has been designed by Head Chef, Calum Montgomery especially for Hogmanay. His inspiration is to create, “our take on Scottish classics“, to celebrate the best of Scotland during the festive season. https://www.edinbanelodge.com
Get your winter orders in to John Davidsons– based in the heart of Aberdeenshire this is a family run multi-award-winning specialist butcher. You may be near one of their 3 stores otherwise you can shop online https://www.johndavidsons.com