grilled mussels with black pudding
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Black pudding, haggis, boudin noir, blutwurst, morcilla, blodpudding, kaszanka and pig blood curd. It is the nose to tail principle, the ‘waste not want not’ frugality and the respect to the animal we butcher and eat, after the North American Indian’s fashion.
It’s blood. Mixed with fillers, more often than not cereal of some kind, less often chopped up offal; encased, sausage way, into a length of gut. It’s the Game of Thrones of the meat world, everything about it offending the lily-livered carnivores who happily bite into chicken but huff about poor Bambies when offered game.
Luckily for the pudding (and the nose to tail concept), most people don’t quite think about what black pudding really is when they tuck into their full English. Arguably it has higher meat content than an average English sausage; the latter containing mainly breadcrumbs and sage. But pudding is better suited to a main course, not as a main hero but in a strong supporting role. I always cheer when I spot it on a menu; it is invariably paired with pork though which I don’t usually go for when eating out. Pork is boring.
Mussels and pudding are made in heaven. The bivalves are delicate and tender, the pud gutsy and macho – a very old fashioned binary, gender specific identity of both partners. A smart starter for a dinner party but make sure your guests won’t object to one or the other element: this dish consists of the two foodstuffs the Weather Man staunchly refuses to even try…
- 300-500g (about 1 pound) fresh mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
- 100g (3oz.) black pudding
- 4 tbsp. dry or fresh breadcrumbs
- 3 tbsp. grated cheese (Gruyere, Cheddar, Comte)
- ½ bunch parsley, finely chopped
- olive oil
Place an empty large pan over medium heat. When hot, pour the mussels in with a splash of water, cover with a lid and steam for a couple of minutes until they open. Take the pan off the heat and leave until the mussels are cool enough to handle.
Prepare a baking tray or ovenproof dish large enough to hold all the mussels on half shells. Drizzle the dish with olive oil.
Roughly chop the black pudding and whiz it in a blender or food processor with most of the breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley – leaving a little of each to sprinkle over the dish.
Open the mussels (discard the ones that didn’t open when cooking) and place them in half shelves in the baking dish. Preheat the grill (or grill fan) to medium.
Spoon the black pudding mix over the mussel shelves; don’t worry if it crumbles around the shells as well. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs, drizzle with a little more olive oil and grill for 15 minutes until the topping is crisp.
Sprinkle with the rest of the parsley and serve.