Morcilla de Burgos (left) and Morcilla de Leon (right)
Blood sausage is certainly one of those foods that sorts the men from the boys. People either love or hate, or more truthfully hate the thought of it. Personally I love the stuff, but then again I’ve been eating lamb’s brains since I was a wee tot. While there are lots traditional blood sausages made around the world, unsurprisingly the Spanish versions are the closes to my heart, or belly more accurately. I find the English stuff is a bit plain for me, the French do a good job at times, the Germans make some great blood sausages, but morcilla satisfies my craving for an injection earthy, spicy flavour every time.
At it’s most basic, morcilla is made from fresh pigs blood and pork fat with something to add a bit of flavour, such as onion and spices like pimenton (paprika), cinnamon and cumin. Something is then added to thicken this mixture up. While there is huge variation in recipes from village to village and region to region, there are two basic ingredients to do this: onions and rice. The most well known and popular version is using rice, which is generally known as Morcilla de Burgos. This produces a firmer texture (not that firm, it is kind of like a solid risotto) and when cut into slices and grilled will provide a bit of crunch. Of course there is a whole range of producers of Morcilla in Spain, ranging from industrial to artisan. If you are lucky enough to have some friends who still slaughter their own pigs, you might even get to try some home made stuff…
The other way to do things is to add onions which adds a) a lot of flavour and b) a very soft and silky texture. This method is used to make Morcilla de Leon, which may or may not be an actual sausage, rather it is a kind of soft, pungent onion and blood dip that is usually eaten with potato. You are unlikely to come across this unless you are traveling in the hills around Leon and into Gallicia, it usually made fresh in the restaurants and kitchens in the villages up in these regions.. You might also see it in a delis and shops in Madrid, but usually in a can or a jar.
For those of us here in Australia, there are rather limited choices for quality morcilla. Importing is generally not an option, most Spanish makers don’t add nitrate which is required by the food standards here, but there are some good local butchers making some excellent morcilla. Without doubt the best I’ve had here has been from the Rodriguez Bros in Sydney, which unfortunately doesn’t have wide distribution (I think you can buy them from Vic’s Meat for those not in Sydney, if you know of someone selling at retail in Melbourne, let me know!). There is also some good stuff available from Casa Iberica. Or you could always make it yourself…if you’re game!
Here are some ideas to get you going:
Scallop, morcilla and apple stacks
This is a classic combo, morcilla, scallops and apples, but with a slight twist.
- 1 Morcilla
- 10 Large scallops
- 1/4 piece of Celeriac
- 50g apple sauce (homemade and unsweetened without spice if possible)
- 50g Allioli (garlic mayonnaise)
This is really simple. Grate the celeriac and place into a bowl. Mix in the Allioli, season with salt. Cut the morcilla up into slices and clean up the scallops so you have a tube like bit of scallop. Heat a fry pan to a high temp, add a tiny bit of oil and fry the morcilla and scallops for about 30 second. Now assemble a stack: scallop on the bottom, celeriac mix next, a little apple sauce, morcilla, apple sauce, celeriac mix and scallop. Use a tooth pick to hold it all together if you like, but try to eat them in one bite if you can…
Fat boy breakfast
This isn’t really a breakfast dish, great hangover cure though. You will need a medium sized cazuela, a Spanish clay dish, for best results with this. If you’re feeding a bunch of hungry booze hounds, triple the quantity and make it in a oven proof frying pan.
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Morcilla
- 1/2 a Chorizo
- 4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped (or one 400g tin)
- 1/4 of an onion, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
Heat your oven to 180C. Peel, dice and de-seed the tomatoes. Fry the onion in a saucepan with a little olive oil. Add the tomatoes, paprika and a little salt after a minute or two. Cook these until they are soft, not quite until they are a sauce, you want it to be a little chunky. Cut up the chorizo and morcilla into slices and bang it into the cazuela, add the tomato mix on top leaving a bit of room for the eggs at the top. Into the oven for 15 minutes. Pull it out of the oven crack the eggs over the top, back into the oven for a couple of minutes (I like the eggs to be runny, leave it in for 5-10 minutes if you want hard eggs). Out of the oven, parsley on top and its ready to go with some toasted bread.
This is a dish I make when I’m home by myself for two reasons a) it’s quick and easy and b) you’ll be farting like a bear that’s eaten a week old salmon about an hour after eating it.
- 1 Morcilla
- 1 400g can on brown lentils
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup of random veg (peas, peppers, that kind of thing)
- 1 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground
- 1/2 teaspoon smoke paprika
- pinch of Piment d’Espelette (mild chili powder from the French Basque country, use mild chili powder if you don’t have it)
- Salt and Pepper
Chuck the veg, onion and garlic in a pot with a little olive oil, on to the stove at a low heat. While thats cooking away, mix up the spices. Add these to the pot after a minute or two. let this cook until everything is soft and then add the tin of lentils (liquid and all) and the morcilla. Whack up the heat to get this up to boil, then let it simmer until its reduced to the point where it’s a bit saucy (i.e. not too much liquid) and serve with some bread.