I carried a spoon in my wader pocket when I used to guide for salmon on the Fraser River. As guests dragged their fish onto the bank, I would rip the fish’s gills, then pull out its organs before the sun could coagulate them into a hotpot of sludge. One thing that always confused me, however, was that line of what looked like blood holding steadfast underneath the fish’s backbone. It tightly hugged the spine like a dark red clot, requiring my handy spoon to scoop out. I tried everything to make the fish fully bleed out, but somehow this “blood” always remained. As it turns out, that’s because what I’d assumed to be blood was actually the fish’s kidney—which just happens to be the perfect ingredient in black pudding.
Though less common in North America, black pudding is incredibly popular in many cultures. I first tried black pudding in the Seychelles while staying with a local family. I’d expressed interest in trying their traditional cuisine, so on my last night they threw me a farewell party and invited friends and family for a potluck-style dinner. I ate fruit bat curry, salted fish, and some other Seychellois delicacies. I also made sure to save room for dessert, a delicious looking dish that they called black pudding. I love pudding—vanilla, caramel, pistachio… but I’d never heard of black pudding. It sounded hearty and I was excited to try it. It was as delicious as it looked, but when I learned that the “black” in the pudding was blood, I felt my stomach churn. They explained that they’d mixed the blood with oatmeal and a variety of spices. The texture was mushy, the flavor was rich, and the presentation was beautiful. I’ve since eaten—and enjoyed—a variety of black pudding and blood sausage from around the world.
Today, most black puddings use fresh pork blood mixed with fat, oats, and spices. It’s cased like a sausage or made into patties then boiled, fried, or baked. Chef Josh Niland puts an elegant spin on the traditional black pudding sausage by using the rich flavours of fish kidneys, shallots, cloves, nutmeg, and breadcrumbs. He uses cream in place of fat, then forms the batter into a roll and tightly wraps it in cling-wrap. From there, he boils, cools, and slices it, then fries it up in ghee. The result is a beautiful dish that I love to serve.
I’m sharing Josh’s recipe from his “The Whole Fish Cookbook” here, but there are multiple ways to make black pudding. You can use kidneys or fresh blood. Try experimenting with some of the other ingredients I’ve listed, or play around with your favourite spices! We’re getting ready to wrap up the “Nostril to Caudal” series, so stay tuned next week when we take one last look at cooking fish skin, scales, and slime! Be sure to buyto get the most of his beautiful recipes for fish fillets and much more!
Time to make
3 oz. fish kidney or blood from fresh-caught fish, though any animal blood will work (Josh warns against tuna, which can be very strong)
3 shallots for a sweet flavour (or onion for savory)
25 oz. butter
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves (allspice is a great alternative)
5 oz. thick cream
2 oz. Ghee
Also works with
- Sweat shallots with butter in a skillet and add spices when they’re soft. Cook until fragrant. Let cool and add cream.
- Scrape kidneys out of fresh fish with a spoon. If any of the membrane is left from the air bladder, simply pick it out. Stir in kidney/blood and breadcrumbs.
- Spoon into a square of cling wrap and tightly roll into a sausage shape.
- Boil water and reduce heat to 185 degrees F, then place the sausage in the water and poach for 25 minutes or until cooked.
- Once firm to the touch, plunge the roll into an ice bath. Once it’s cool, carefully remove the pudding from the casing and cut into 1-inch-thick slices.
- Fry the slices in ghee, flipping to cook both sides.