Food Feature for News Letter 31 May

He created the award winning Old Fermanagh Black Bacon and Traditional Fermanagh Corned Beef, both based on heritage recipes and widely acclaimed for their distinctive tastes. Now Pat O’Doherty, creator of both acclaimed products, is focused on raising the profile of the Black Pudding, another historic food that’s recently been ranked among the so called ‘superfoods’.

Pat Good
Pat Good

Owner of the famed O’Doherty’s Fine Meats in Enniskillen’s Belmore Street, Pat launched Ireland’s only Black Pudding Festival in 2012 as “a bit of an experiment” designed in particular to support tourism in the county. His enterprise has been rewarded this year in the shape of support for his fourth All Ireland Black Pudding Festival from the local council and top chefs such as internationally rated Noel McMeel of the Lough Erne Resort.

Hotels and restaurants across the county will be blending black puddings into original dishes during August. His love of heritage foods has also attracted the attention from UK celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Among the events being planned during the month-long festival is a major event at Castle Archdale that will feature a wide range of activities for the family including cooking demonstrations, artisan foods and traditional music. There’ll even be a competition for the public to come up with their own black puddings.

 

“Many families in Ireland have their own recipes. We’ll select the best and give their owners a chance to cook live on stage. The winner will then receive a special award,” he says. “I am really keen to draw out as many different black pudding recipes as possible because virtually every community has its own version using different ingredients and way of making them,” he adds. What’s so special about black puddings? “It’s a food that’s been around for centuries and is found in most parts of the world. It’s also celebrated in food festivals in many places,” he continues.”

This will be reflected in this year’s festival. We’ll have more than 20 black puddings from around the world including Asia and South America.” The festival is a development of his longstanding interest in the history of local food particularly beef and bacon, a fascination that has led him to spend hours in the archives and has resulted in the revival of two products steeped in history – Fermanagh Black Bacon, a dry-cured bacon with spices that’s based on a technique dating back generations, and Traditional Fermanagh Corned Beef.

The corned beef dates back to the time when Ireland supplied the product throughout Europe. Both English and French armies in the Napoleonic Wars enjoyed Irish corned beef! He speaks with the authority of someone who has researched the history of the black pudding, a sausage generally made from pork blood, fat and a relatively high proportion of oatmeal. Other parts of the world, he points out, celebrate the pudding that probably originated in Asia with community festivals. The French know it as Boudin Noir and it’s Morcilla to the Spanish. This year he is marking the Asian contribution by drawing products from China and Korea. There’ll also be puddings from Argentina and Mexico.

“Each nation has its own ingredients. The Spanish version is based on paprika and garlic, while some South America puddings even include chocolate and orange. The Mexican pudding is heavily seasoned with chillies and can be really fiery. I’ve also found Asian puddings made from chicken blood, probably a pudding too far for most consumers here!. “In Britain, black pudding is considered a delicacy in the Black Country and the North West, especially in Lancashire, where it is traditionally boiled and served with malt vinegar in paper wrapping. The Stornoway black pudding, made on the Western Isles of Scotland, has also been granted EU Protected Geographical Indicator of Origin status.

Black pudding is now part of the local cuisine of the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, probably influenced by Irish emigrants.” His extensive research found the very first reference to the black pudding in 800 BC, when it was mentioned in Homer's classic saga 'The Odyssey'. Homer famously described the way people felt then about black puddings and wrote: As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted. In the Odyssey, Homer had his champiom Odysseus get into a fight “around the sausage” for a prize of a stomach stuffed with pig blood and fat. Homer was a philosopher who clearly liked his black pudding! “Black pudding was not just food for the poor, it was also loved by the nobility.

The extravagant breakfast banquets held by King Henry VIII at Hampton Court, for instance, always included black pudding. it’s also a longstanding ingredient of our own Ulster Fry,” he adds. Why has it achieved ‘superfood’ status. “There are relatively few calories in black pudding, especially when compared with other types of sausage. Black pudding is also virtually carb free and packed with protein, potassium and magnesium and rich in iron, calcium and zinc, minerals that are frequently missing from the average adult’s body. It’s outstandingly tasty and healthy.”