This was going to be a Halloween post but I had trouble with it and had to revisit it later to get it right. I mean, really, nothing says ‘Happy Holidays’ like a champagne glass filled with hot blood pudding custard. Actually, everything does besides that. Anyway, I made hot blood pudding custard.
The New Tool: The Thermomix
In order to concoct this particular treat, I needed to use my Thermomix. In a nutshell, a Thermomix is basically a blender that can heat up. But that undersells the thing. It also functions as a scale and has a 60 minute timer. It can knock the skins off off garlic or mill nuts into flour within seconds. With the Varoma attachment, you can steam whole meals above the stainless steel container. The blades can spin at ten different speeds while something cooks so you can leave it unattended while it does the work of stirring for you. And if you live in the US, you can’t get one.
Yes, for some reason, they aren’t sold here. They have a strange system where a salesperson comes to your home to demonstrate it first, then you can purchase one through them. So how did I get mine? Craigslist. It was brand new and the guy was going through a divorce and wanted to get rid of it. I got it for 33% off the normal price.
In Modernist Cuisine, there’s only one recipe that explicitly uses the Thermomix, and that’s the blood custard. It’s adapted from Heston Blumenthal, but I couldn’t find any recipe for the original. Making it wasn’t as easy as the Thermomix, but I got it figured out, with a little help of a friend.
The Land Of Milk And Blood
The first part of the recipe is simple: toast some spices, lightly crush them and make a sachet. In this case, the combination is star anise, ginger, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns and cardamom seeds.
The very next step was a stumper, though.
Heavy cream, stabilized with hydrocolloids (or processed at ultrahigh temperature)
Well, there’s a lot of assumptions going on there. What hydrocolloids? How much? What is meant by ‘stabilized’? There was nothing mentioned in the corrections. When I first tried it, I used ultra-pasteurized heavy whipping cream, but it never gelled together. I had to find out exactly how to do it.
Since I’ve been into this cookbook even before it was published, I got to know the chefs who have written it (the advantage of living in the same city, you see). I contacted Anjana Shanker, one of the primary chefs, and told her my tale of woe. She in turn consulted with fellow chef Sam Fahey-Burke, who worked at the Fat Duck and knows the recipe very well. Turns out there are a few things to note:
- Use all natural cream. Store creams often already have a stabilizer in them like carrageenan.
- With the cream and blood at 100%, add 0.5% Kelcogel F (a low-acyl gellan) to the mixture as a stabilizer.
OK then. I, of course, immediately forgot and added in the Kelcogel F to the cream alone, then heated it up with the sachet to infuse the cream with the spices.
The next step calls for fresh pig’s blood. Like that’s easy to find. I’m not sure how fresh they meant. My local Asian grocery carries pig’s blood, but the ingredients listed say blood, water and salt. I spoke with a butcher about getting some without anything else added, but they couldn’t offer it. Short of attending a hog slaughter, this would have to do.
The first time I tried the recipe, I just spooned the blood out of the container. The butcher suggested I blend and strain the blood first. That made sense as the blood was partially coagulated and I probably wasn’t getting the proper full mix. So, mix and measure the blood I did.
After the cream had cooled down, it was definitely thickened by the additive. I put the cream and blood into the Thermomix and was ready to cook it up.
The next step in the recipe is as follows:
Cook in 70° C / 160° F Thermomix or beaker just until pudding has thickened to custard, about 4 h. Emulsion will split if overreduced.
Once again, the recipe was unclear. The Thermomix has ten speed settings. Which one was I supposed to use? I consulted with Anjana, and she suggested to start at speed 5, and go down one speed each hour. I tried that with my first attempt and it didn’t work, so this time I tried a little slower, starting a speed 4 and working my way down. As it blended, the mixture began to darken and bubble up through the cap on top.
The recipe talks about reduction. It can’t really reduce if steam is not allowed to escape. But at the higher speeds, the mixture kept spattering out of the top. At speed 2 and 1 I took off the cap to allow steam to escape so it could reduce.
Oh, did I mention how it spattered at high speeds? Yeah, I found out the hard way.
Anyone know how to get blood pudding custard out of a windowshade? Otherwise, I have a lovely reminder of my cooking exploits. At least in the end it cooked and thickened and worked out.
I added the salt and sugar and gave it a taste. It was too salty for my palate. I tried adding a bunch of sugar to a cup of it to see if it would be good sweet, but the flavor didn’t lend itself very well to the idea. It is a savory custard, and I’m not sure how I’d serve it. If I was feeling mischievous, perhaps in a Jello pudding serving container. Or presented as a nice gift for that very special someone. I’m not sure who that someone would be, though!