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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pudding Heaven

Whilst Annascaul is rightly heralded as the birthplace of Antarctic explorer Tom Crean it has another claim to fame in Ashe’s of Annascaul, makers of award winning Black and White Puddings.

For those of you unfamiliar with Irish Puddings they are very different from the UK versions which tend to have either huge chunks of fat or an excess of Pinhead Oats in the Black and, in the case of the White seem to consist largely of Lard and Oatmeal, a claggy consistency and little if any taste. It is hardly surprising that they are, at the very least, an acquired taste.

Boudin, or Blood Puddings, as per the continental makers are however a totally different matter and a taste experience of their own and, in recent years, Irish producers are conquering the continent regularly winning in the competitions for best Boudin held there.

Ashe’s were established in 1916 and have gone from strength to strength.

As great Irish butcher Pat Whelan said “Annascaul is special” and many top chefs agree, I had a starter of Annascaul Black Pudding hash in the Chart House in Dingle, which was a mix of finely diced pudding and potato, and loved it.

As with all good foods the secret lies in good ingredients and sensitive handling to present them as intended not processed beyond belief.

A handmade pudding, baked in a steam oven in the cellar of the shop in Annascaul, the hand made as opposed to machinery constructed pudding is one of the few that uses fresh blood, in this case Beef Blood, most are made from reconstituted dried blood. The ingredients are simple: Beef blood, onions, breadcrumbs, suet, milk, oatmeal, flour, salt, pepper, spices, herbs. The secret lies in the exact combination and, whatever was decided back in 1916 nearly 100 years on the combination still works.

White Pudding is a relative newcomer first made in 2005. Again cake baked in the steam oven it is softer than the Black and an essential part of any proper breakfast. This pudding is also popular with chefs and often appears as a starter or even in canapés. White pudding is differentiated from Black in that it does not use blood, rather bacon. The ingredients, as with the Black Pudding are all sourced locally being: Prime back bacon, gammon, pearl barley, rusk, milk, salt, pepper, spices and seasonings. Whatever combination of spices are used the result is a really tasty pudding.

Of course a breakfast would not be breakfast without Bacon and Sausage and I am pleased to report that Ashe’s do both – very well.

The Sausages have a much lower fat content than usually found and the flavour is all the better for that!

The Traditional Pork Sausages are described as “Peppery Pork Perfection” and that is as accurate a description as I have ever heard. The smaller ones are chipolata size and there is a bigger really hungry/barbecue size as well. Unlike most sausages which are mix of lean meat and fat these are made from Pork Belly and the balance of fat to meat is natural, a 75% Pork content ensures a great sausage. Hand Packed into natural Lamb casings they fry beautifully with very little fat left in the pan and give a good meaty bite with loads of spicy flavour.

I cooked mine dry and they coloured well and maintained a great texture. Combined with extra thick cut commercial bread – the only time that I use commercial – they gave a brilliant sausage sandwich and moved Mrs. K to grant her highest accolade “Very Yum!”

Sadly when I called by the shop the Pork and Black Pudding sausages were out of stock “It’s the Easter Weekend, we’ve had a run and we only restarted making them today, can you wait?” I was told. Unfortunately we were heading back to the Ferry and had booked lunch some 150k south so I couldn’t. Try Camp or Blennerville was the suggestion. So keen was I that heading a potential 50k in the wrong direction was not an issue. As the white Pudding was still in the oven as well it made sense. Camp had sold out entirely but I was able to get my White Pudding in Blennerville and was only 35 minutes late for my lunch reservation. Having tried the Sausages and Black pudding I can only imagine the effect of combining the two in a sausage and will definitely be back to get some – perhaps I will have to email a reservation first!

Finally they have Bacon, both varieties Green and Smoked. Dry Cured for ultimate taste and none of that horrid white gunge that emerges from certain proprietary brands, these rashers are simply good!

After nearly a century of making puddings and porcine pleasure Ashe’s have got it just right. The combination of using local ingredients and hand processing really does bring out the very best in all of their products and this undoubtedly makes them Local And Great.

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  1. Such a great report on a very tasty product Bill. I just picked up some of the Black for a dinner this weekend we are hosting.

    1. One of my favourites, will be sharing some with @NativeBreeds and @claddaghgal this weekend after Undy Farmers Market. Graham is working on a Welsh Irish-style pudding so should get some inspiration,