If the thought of eating blood for breakfast makes you squeamish, you likely didn't grow up in the United Kingdom, where since time immemorial it's been decreed that a full fried breakfast should come with a hearty helping of black pudding. Made from pig's blood and fat that's bulked up with oatmeal and spiked with spices, the concoction is boiled into a black sausage shape that's flecked with white blobs of fat. (It's said to be rich in iron, if you're looking for a health angle.)
Black pudding has enjoyed a renaissance across menus in the U.K. over the last few years—and it's been used in upscale ways like forming the "bread" in a foie gras sandwich—but it's still seen by many as a polarizing food. If you're undecided about putting some pig's blood on your fork, let these five U.K.-based chefs and pop culture figures persuade you to venture over to the darker side of the breakfast spread.
Sam Dunwoodie, co-owner of The Koffee Pot in Manchester
We offer free black pudding and I'd say around 25 percent of those who order a full English [breakfast] take up the offer. We try to encourage people to try it, mainly tourists who don't know what it is. Basically we tell them what it's made out of but just tell them how tasty it is and how it's a British delicacy. I describe it as meaty but quite complex—but without sounding wanky. We tell them it's free to try so give it a go!
Obviously black pudding goes well with other meats but we also do it as part of a breakfast salad which is very popular. The oddest request we've had is from one of our regulars who likes it served to him raw. Obviously black pudding's cooked when it's made but it's still a little odd!
Duke Garwood, musician who named an album Black Pudding
When I first tried black pudding I was a young child in the '70s, around 3 or 4. I loved it—but we were hungry in the early '70s and I was not a fussy kid. Then I found out much later it was made of pig's blood and my family went veggie anyway so it kind of left my life for a while. But black pudding isn't all blood, and if you eat burgers, fried chicken, tuna melts, hot dogs, bacon sarnies, and all meats that come ready prepared then you can eat black pud as it is ready prepared blood and spices in a convenient shape.
[Fellow musician] Mark Lanegan and I share a love for good black pudding—especially the Spanish one, and the Irish variety—and we wanted to call our band Black Pudding, but some comedy metal band from Munich had already grabbed the name.
Robert Webster Shaw, owner of Great Queen Street in London
Black pudding’s delicious! It has a fantastic flavor and a great texture. There's no escaping that it's a blood sausage, but really, if it makes you squeamish, once you've tried it and you like it, you won't care.
We currently have a warm black pudding, poached egg and Alsace bacon salad on the menu. It's a red onion reduction combined with fried bacon lardons and crunchy croutons, tossed through robust leaves and topped with discs of black pudding and a poached egg. It's a salty, sweet and sour crunchy salad with black pudding and egg yolk together—so good! We have also used it in a dish with roast quail, and as a starter with scallops.
Giorgio Alessio, chef-patron at Lanterna in Yorkshire
Black pudding is so flavorsome it was always in my mind to create a recipe with it. Since it's a wintery food to me, it seemed a good idea to do a ravioli with it and I tried to do it with a very light English mustard sauce. Another way I've used black pudding is making homemade black pudding ice cream—it took a lot of trial and error!
Stig, rapper from Newcastle
The first time I had black pudding I had it uncooked, as my old man is a savage. I definitely wasn't sure, especially as it was probably some no frills, overly-ground, metallic-tasting grim sandwich filler. But now I'd say it's a delicious, earthy, meaty, nutty, mushed blood, herby sausage-type filth that works perfect on a fry up or if you're too weak for that with pear and scallops.
Why should someone try black pudding? What kind of gray, quotidian borg needs to be convinced to try new things? We die in the end—don't you want to take in as much of the madness as possible? Don't eat it, I'll have double.