Its all about the pig – first up, blood…

Measuring the blood

I’ve got the opportunity to do a stage later this week at Fergus Henderson’s eponymous St. John Restaurant -yayayayayyay!  Obviously very excited (and a little bit scared!) The last dish I ate there was a fabulous slice of blood cake with prunes and pancetta, which prompted this post, and is featured elsewhere on the blog…

My love for all things pork were cultivated by a chef I much admire, Pete Goffe-Wood. Before I worked with him I wouldn’t even touch fat, now, however, its a different story altogether. 

Having cooked for some time now, some disciplines have attracted me more – butchery/charcuterie and pastry/dessert work. Probably because they require more technical knowledge, and I think no matter what, there’s always a clear distinction here between cookery as an artform and cookery as a craft. The above are technical crafts that are fairly difficult to master correctly. There is always, always  more to learn, which is what makes cookery so exciting. 

For example, cooking with blood to create blood cake or sausage. Besides being an ingredient which is fairly difficult to obtain for obvious health reasons, its one not  many people know what to do with. We are taught in school that eggs are super rich with the protein albumin, which is also the protein in blood, along with globulin. If you then also know that albumin starts setting at 75 degrees C, it might become clearer what to do with it, and how to treat it.

This setting ability of albumin makes it possible to become a blood cake, black pudding or morcilla, or the traditional thickening agent in ye olde coq au vin.  I only researched the culinary use of blood slightly, and it turns out that cooks through the ages were way more savvy about what to do with blood, but then again I think they had a much less fussy crowd to feed, and obviously no commercial culinary thickeners!

My blood cake knowledge mostly comes from Carol Craddock, a fabulous chef who taught me loads. When making blood cake, three things are important to remember – season the mix really well and TASTE it, know how to use heat to congeal the cake mix properly up to the correct point, and set it in the oven at a gentle temperature. Overcooked protein is nothing else but very sad and unuseable.  

Once cooled and set it can be sliced and coated with pinhead oats and fried gently, or a light flouring works just as well. A fried egg is de rigeur but the prune and pancetta version is what stuck in my head for a long time. Simple is best.

Pancetta, apple, lardo, herbs and blood
Sweating off the ingredients
Semi-congealed mix as it goes into the oven
The finished cake ready for portioning and eating!

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