Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A little bit of Heaven and Earth

After the sophistication of Sunday's dining experience, it was time to come back down to Earth a little on Monday.

Although even doing that was not without a plethora of Continental influences.

On Saturday, I'd picked up a big piece of black pudding from the market. Now for some strange reason or other, the British have relegated black pudding to the status of a breakfast ingredient – and mostly in the north west of England. Which is really rather a shame. Good black pudding is wonderful.

In France, it's boudin noir; in Germany, blutwurst (but rotwurst in Thuringia). In Belgium and the Netherlands, it's bloedworst and beuling respectively. The Italians – well, the Tuscans at any rate – have buristo, the Spanish morcilla and the Portuguese morcela.

In Iceland, there's blóðmör, while blodpudding goes down a treat in Sweden, mustamakkara delights Finns, verivorst does the same for Estonians, krovyanka hits the spot for Russians, krov'yanka for Ukrainians, kiszka or kaszanka for Poles and krupniok for Silesians.

Hungry Hungarians dine on véres hurka, Bulgarians on karvavitsa, while krvavica does it for Bosnians, Croats, Serbs and Slovenians.

In Romania, the traditional sângerete comes from Transylvania, while the Czechs enjoy jelito.

And that's without moving beyond European borders.

I find all this completely fascinating – although it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that so many peoples have reached similar culinary conclusions about ingredients, particularly when we’re looking at food that is traditionally eaten by ‘poor people’, for whom making the very most of a piece of meat, for instance, is economically vital.

I’ve eaten ‘black pudding’ in three places outside the UK: in France, Germany and Spain.

In Barcelona, we were in a restaurant one evening – earlier than ‘Barcelona time’ (which means dinner usually starts at 10pm). The restaurant was quiet. We ordered olives to start, and a bottle of red wine.

The young waiter brought the bottle and then tried to uncork it. The cork broke and dropped into the liquid.

Seeing this, the maître d’ came over and apologised (although there was nothing to apologise for). He returned a few minutes later with another bottle, rolled his eyes as though the poor young waiter was to blame and, making great dumb show of it, rolled it carefully on the table before pulling the cork and pouring.

Then he produced miniature black puddings as an extra – and complimentary – starter. They were lovely.

In Germany, it was less successful. Lutter & Wegner was a disappointment, although it might not have been helped by my choosing black pudding in May, just because, after being handed the English menu, I could order the dish by its proper German name: ‘Himmel und Erde’ – ‘Heaven and Earth’; apples and potatoes and black pudding.

I have not eaten black pudding in a restaurant setting in France, but a number of times when self-catering.

So Monday's black pudding, while hardly a boudin Catalan, was served in a rather un-British way, as a main meal.

It demands very little – well, some thinly sliced onions, cooked very slowly and gently, plus apples: there have to be apples. Slice thinly and core, then fry gently in butter.

On the side, after braving the half-term crowds at John Lewis to finally find a potato ricer, was a mash of suede and carrot – and the ricer really does make it a lot, lot easier.

It may be simple food, but you can see what the Germans mean about such a dish being a little bit of Heaven and Earth.


  1. Hi Kendal,

    The name 'Heaven and Earth' means nothing poetic, I'm afraid. It just indicates that apples grow high in trees while potatoes grow in the earth. To eat it with 'Blutwurst' is optional; could be other meat as well.


  2. Thank you, Rieschel! It's nice to think of it poetically, though.