It’s not just us British who like our black pudding/blood sausage, call it what you want, it appears on menus around the globe in various guises.
I visited France recently and had the opportunity to try boudin noir, one of France’s oldest charcuterie dishes. In the past, the raising and subsequent slaughter of the family pig was common and no part of the animal was wasted.
Like the English black pudding, the main ingredient of the boudin noir is pork blood stuffed in a casing.
The boudin I ordered on my first night was served still in its casing, covered with onions and served with salad potatoes and bacon.
Each producer has their own recipe but a traditional boudin contains equal quantities of blood, fat, and cooked onions.
The spices are different to those used in the English black pudding. The inclusion of apple and omission of barley or oats are other notable differences.
The French apple brandy Calvados is often added to the boiudin noir mix along with cream. Even chestnuts can be added to some recipes.
I found it to be a lot softer and crumblier than it’s English counter part.
Very nice, although I think the English black pudding still beats it!
Thursday 15th September
Eek, just before I’m due to fly out to Lyon, I discover French air traffic controllers are planning a strike. Many flights from the UK were being cancelled.
The strike was mainly affecting the budget airlines flying in to Paris and, luckily for me, my Air France/FlyBe Embraer aircraft took off from Manchester pretty much on time.
After around 90 minutes in the skies, we landed at Lyon airport where I had a two hour wait for the coach to Annecy Gare Routière via Chambéry and Aix-les-Bains.
I had pre-booked my tickets online for €34.
I sat with a drink at the Premium Bar near the check-in waiting for the coach to arrive at the stops opposite.
After chucking my large rucksack in the boot space of the coach, I settled down for the two hour journey through the French countryside.
After several hours travelling from my home in Wirral, the bus station at Annecy was a very welcome sight and from here it was a short walk in pretty much straight line to the Ibis Annecy Centre Vieille Ville hotel.
The hotel situated in the centre of town was nice and clean with a little balcony over looking court yard. Te room, however, was very small.
After taking some time to unpack and freshen up, I took a stroll to le Munich for dinner. It was the Boudin Noir on the menu which caught my attention!
I started with Carpaccio. An Italian starter at a German themed bar/restaurant in France near the Swiss border – truly European! I love my beef as rare as possible and it doesn’t get much rarer than this. A very good start to my first meal of the trip. As for the French black pudding main course…very nice although I think the English black pudding still beats it!
After dinner I took a stroll around the picturesque old town before retiring to my room.
Friday 16th September After a decent breakfast at the hotel, I took a stroll down to the train/bus station to pick up some time tables for some days out I was thinking of taking. Today’s plan was to take good wander around Annecy’s market stall filled streets and on towards the mountain-fringed lake. Getting lost in the old, narrow streets before stopping for coffee at one of the many cafe cum bars in town.
The old town reminded me of Venice or Bruges with its canals and buildings bedecked with flowers.
A lovely place to aimlessly wander.
Saturday 17th September Horrible weather.
I made my self couple of cheeses toasties for breakfast before getting the waterproofs on and walking around the lake to the village of Talloires.
Leaving the hotel, I walked East around the ‘top’ of the lake before following the shore around.
On a nice day I imagine the views across the lake are beautiful and the water to be filled with swimmers and sailors. Today, however, I was wet enough on dry land!
For the first part of this 11 mile route, I followed the tree-lined path to the side of the lake until it ended near the village of Chavoire, here, I headed inland slightly along the D909, Route d’Annecy. In the village of Veyrier du Lac, I took the quieter road to the right of Route d’Annecy, parallel to the lake. This road took me around housing estates before dropping back down to the shores of the lake.
At the Palace De Menthon hotel, I was forced back in land and slightly up hill where there I got some nice views over to Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, the birth place of Bernard of Menthon (St Bernard), the patron saint of skiers.
The road continued round in to the ‘Reserve Naturelle du Rock de Chere‘ park. There are a number of routes around the wooded rocky outcrop. I followed the well signed path nearest to the lake towards the view point at Belvedere.
Despite the poor weather all day, it cleared up just in time to stop and take some photos.
It was a very good spot to see some Red Bull Elements which was taking place in the village!
Talloires didn’t have much to offer and the Red Bull Elements was just finishing off so there was little to keep me in the village. Luckily I had just few mins to wait for the infrequent bus service back to Annecy and bonus… it was free!
This route is available to download from the ViewRanger website.
Sunday 18th September After breakfast I donned the waterproofs again before making my way to Gorges du Fier, considered to be one of the natural wonders of the Alps.
I headed West out of Annecy on D2201 road. The route continued along roads through the town and industrial areas until reaching the woods around the river Fier with it’s ‘interesting’ footpaths consisting of seemingly randomly placed wooden planks!
The path follows the river, ending at the gorge’s pay booth. Entry at the time of writing (Sept 2016) was €5.50.
The route through is linear, ending at a La Clairière des Curieux, an information area detailing the gorge.
Keep an eye out for blue footprints on the path to see ‘faces’ in rocks.
The 6 mile route to and around the gorge is available to download as a GPX file.
Leaving the gorge, I took a different route back, following the railway line along a quiet road towards the hydro power plant.
This was a far nicer route than the one I took out to the gorge and is also available to download as a GPX.
Monday 19th September
This morning I was travelling by bus from the main bus station in Annecy to Geneva, Switzerland. Return tickets are reasonably priced and are purchased at the Annecy bus station.
I got off at Seujet. (Google maps helped to find the right stop!)
To be honest, there wasn’t too much in Geneva to hold my interest but it’s another city to tick off my ‘to see’ list. I took a wander around the town which was filled with watch shops. I passed through the park and on to Jet d’Eau.
I must admit, this jet of water is impressive. I took the jetty out to get up close to the 140 metres (460 ft) jet.
The area around the lake near the Jet is a nice spot to stop for a quick drink. Luckily for me, the shops and bars in town accept the Euro as well as the Swiss Franc, albeit at a 1-1 exchange rate.
Personally, I found a day trip was more than enough time to see the town, leaving on the 5.15 bus…bad move as we got stuck in the rush hour traffic.
Tuesday 20th September Sunshine!
Today the plan was to climb the hills on the Western side of lake.
Wandering through the town, along the waters edge, I headed right down Rue des Marquisats, taking another right at the roundabout .
Continuing up Avenue de Tresum and Boulevard de la Corniche, I turned off to the left down Ave del la Visitation towards Cathédrale de la Visitation, Catholic basilica dating from the early 20th-century.
Already there were great views back over to the town and lake. At the end of the road I entered the woodland and followed the well signed paths to the South, parallel to the lake.
There were a number of view points along the route. A rather elaborate cairn marked the point at 767 meters.
Most of the views on this part of the walk were towards the town. I was surprised how sprawling the area actually is.
There are a number of routes through the woods, I continued to the point about 5 miles in to the walk, where the path curled round, almost in a horseshoe shape. In my mind, this was the part of the walk with the far better views.
Originally the plan was to drop down in to one of the lake side villages, however, the paths down where very steep and, to be honest, I was enjoying the views from the higher path.
Eventually the path slowly made its way down to the shore at La Puya. From here it was a nice walk back through the port area back to the hotel
I think must have been my favourite walk on the holiday and is definitely recommended.
A GPX file of this 9 mile route is available to download
Wednesday 21st September
After breakfast, I wandered down to train/bus station to get a ticket for the 9am bus to Lyon, my home for the next night.
The coach had plenty of luggage space and even a coffee machine at front!
After arriving at the main bus station, I got 5 Euro 50 day ticket and boarded tram T1 to the stop near Quality suites Confluence. A very nice hotel but rather out the way from the main part of town.
The room was lovely and included a kettle, hob microwave. Oddly though the hall way separated the toilet from the sink/sower room!
After unpacking, I wandered around for some snaps in the lovely weather.
Sadly this really was just a flying visit. My time was spent zig zagging between the streets of the old town and walking along the river.
It would have been nice to see the ruins but it just wasn’t possible on this whistle stop visit.
Dinner was taken at Les Chandelles. I later discovered this restaurant had very poor reviews but I enjoyed the meal….especially the unusual dish of head of veal!
Perhaps a return visit is required to see the rest of the sites and sample some better food?
Thurs 22nd September Time to go. After a quick shower, I walked to the train station and got a coffee and baguette. It seemed suitably French and definitely filled a corner!
Back to the hotel for check out which was at 11am. Luckily I left the hotel early as the trams weren’t running. A change of plan was required! I took two metro trains to Gare part dieu. Easily done and covered by the €1.80 ticket.
From there it was on to the shuttle train to the airport.
I’ve failed in most things in life; becoming an airline pilot, a world class fencer, winning more than a tenner on the Lottery.
I’ve now lowered aspirations and aiming to produce the ‘ultimate black pudding’.
So far, my best attempt was using a mix ‘Black Pudding mix‘ from Tongmaster.
It’s a sort of beginners black pudding; add fat and hot water, mix, cook then hey presto a decent black pud.
There is some room for experimentation, firstly how to cook.
It’s possible to mix then put it all in a roasting dish and whack it in the oven at 160c for an hour. Casings are not required.
My preferred method is to stuff the mix in to casing (also available from Tongmaster/Amazon), tie both ends with butchers string to make a big waterproof ‘sausage’.
Simmer at a constant 80 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
I’ve also experimented with the types of fat.
I’ve tried trimming as much fat as possible off belly pork, this produces reasonable results.
Apparently Stornoway black pudding uses suet, I’ve only tried it the once and wasn’t too keen but will try it again at some point.
By far the best results come with back fat. I obtained this from my local butcher, however, as they produce their own sausages and black pudding they are a little reluctant to part with it. It cost as much gram for gram as their best sausages.
Take the weight of fat, divide by 3750 and multiply by 100. This will give percentage
So, for example, say, 400gm fat is being used.
400/3750 x 100 = 10.66
Now, find 10.66% of each other ingredient (results are rounded up to nearest gram)
hot water is 1750/100 x 10.66 = 187 grams
mix is 1500/100 x 10.66 = 160 grams
Chop/mince the fat so it’s in small pieces, the sort of size you’d expect to see in a shop bought pudding.
If using, add the oatmeal and spices
Add the dried blood mix then while mixing these together, add the hot water.
Continue to mix until it becomes what is best described as a ‘slury’
Cook using one of the methods described above.
My own mix
Having ‘mastered’ the kit, I moved on to producing my own mix and wasn’t too impressed with the results.
It is difficult to find recipes online. Not surprising really, blood isn’t readily available and in all honesty, most supermarkets sell decent black pudding.
I found a few recipes for the French Boudin noir. I’m sure that’s lovely but I want a proper British black pud.
Firstly, I didn’t have chance to get to the butchers so belly pork fat was used, unfortunately, poor quality supermarket belly pork.
It’s surprising the difference it makes to the finished product.
Secondly I was flying blind with regards the amounts.
I used the formula above but was unsure as to how much oatmeal to use (I used the stuff you find in the cereal aisle at the supermarket).
My total ‘mix’ had to come to 200g; 1g each of pepper, paprika, onion salt and mace (definitely needed more of all of these!) and 50g of oatmeal (too much) then the dried blood made up the rest.
Next time, more spice, less oatmeal and maybe soak the oatmeal first.
Still, you learn fro your mistakes.