January seems the most appropriate time to review a cook book that teaches you how to make your own black pudding.
As I see the same usual miserable people around me, gloomily chewing on salad leaves in the belief that a few weeks observance before returning to GluttonyVille is somehow good for them, I am busy working out whether, sharing a house with other people, I can get away with making the kitchen look like an abattoir.
My inspiration for this gristly plan, which probably contravenes the contract I signed with the landlord, is Le Charcutier Anglais by Marc Frederic, a Northerner who swapped the gloom of the British Isles for years on the continent in France and Germany learning the secrets that allow them to make so many brilliant taste sensations from the humble pig.
They called (well the French anyway) him Le Charcutier Anglais and today he is based in Devon and travels the UK and mainland Europe teaching others his craft.
It was Marc, real name Mark Berry, who ran a butchery course I did around this time last year at Westaways HQ in Newton Abbot, where he impressed us all with his knowledge, skills and above all, patience. He showed us how to take half a pig and turn it into various hams, bacon, sausages, ribs etc.
It isn’t your typical cook book; the first section gives guidance on how to butcher a pig carcass along the same lines as the lesson we were given, complete with tips on tools needed (including a bone saw). While not all readers, few even, will have the time, money or inclination to get into butchery on this scale it is an interesting look at the art of the professional butcher.
Where the book comes into its own is where he goes into how to use the various parts of the beastie you might have just dismembered.
From blood, through offal to pate and other preserved meats, the book is atreasure trove of methods and recipes that show how easy – though occasionally time consuming and/or messy) creating your own charcuterie products can be. The main focus is on pigs and dishes derived therefrom. But there are other meaty recipes on show as well.
What they show is that there really is no reason you cannot have a crack at doing these things yourself. Like me with my coppa ham you might bugger it up, but practice makes perfect!
When I finally found time to flick through the book it was one of those ones where you read a recipe and think: “I can do that. And that. And that. And that.”
With one eye as always on my wallet (the raison d’etre for launching this blog in the first place), while Marc places emphasis on using quality meats, many of the recipes call for cheaper cuts of meat.
My favourite part is the pages devoted to making your own black pudding, be it the traditional British version, the French Boudin Noir or the German Blutwurst. I love black pudding, but how many people would consider making it themselves? Yet it is very easy, as the basic recipe shows, albeit with a possibility that those living with you might think you have become a serial killer – should you be able to find a butcher who can sell you blood in the first place.
Intermixed with the recipes are helpful times and tales from Marc’s childhood and time working both in the UK and abroad, shot through with ribald and self-deprecating humour, which make the book as much fun to just sit back and read through as it is to use it to make recipes.
Now, off to find someone who will sell me six litres of pigs’ blood. And then I shall paint the kitchen red.