Fangs to Meringues: Five facts about blood in food

Chef Tim Hayward with a bucket of fresh blood black pudding mix

Forget the sweat and tears, this is just about blood. Chef Tim Hayward has been on a mission to put the red stuff back on the dining table in The Food Programme.

From black puddings to blood brownies, fangs to meringues, we've got five gory facts for you to get your teeth into...

1. White lies in black pudding

Let's start with breakfast, and the divisive black pudding.

Black pudding is traditionally made with fresh blood, but today in the UK most producers use dried, powdered and imported blood. Some figures state the proportion of dried blood at nearly 95%. Love it or hate it, that's sure to set you up for the day.

Almost every food culture in the world has some kind of blood pudding. The red-stained list includes Drisheen (Ireland), Boudin Noir (France), Morcilla (Spain), Mustamakkara (Finland), Moronga (Central America), Blutwurst (Germany) and Sanguinaccio (Italy) to name but a few.

2. Let there be blood

Blood-letting used to occur among travelling tribes across the world, including the UK. Blood was seen as a way of getting nutrients from an animal without having to kill it. Blood is naturally replenished by the body, and often these animals would be relied on by nomadic groups for travel or in battle.

In regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, such as the plains of south-western Ethiopia where the Suri tribe herd their highly-prized cattle, ceremonial blood-letting is still practiced on the cattle. The cow's throat is pierced before draining and drinking the blood. This is seen as an efficient way to gain energy from their cattle without killing them.

3. Baking with blood

Here’s one for all you budding bakers. Blood can be used as an egg substitute as it has a very similar protein composition.

This has led chefs to explore the possibilities of baking with blood, such as Canadian chef Jennifer McClagan who recently gave a talk on using blood as an ingredient at the Oxford Food Symposium. She’s brought some gore to the quaintness of baking, using blood in her cakes, brownies, ice-creams, sorbets, cocktails and meringues.

4. The vampire myth

Our modern-day image of a blood-sucking vampire, now a dominant figure of the horror genre, is believed to have spawned from early 18th century Eastern Europe. The myth propagated hysterically after a series of 'vampiric' events (such as hair and nails reportedly growing on corpses) coincided with 'ruddy faced' farmers letting and consuming blood from their animals.

Others cite the vampire myth as a satirical reversal of the Communion service. In the 18th century, vampire stories spread like wildfire during times of heightened violence between Protestants and Catholics.

5. Fangtastically wrong

According to the blood-buff Sir Christopher Frayling, author of 'Vampyres', many horror films get it wrong when it comes to blood-sucking vampires. In Dracula, Sir Christopher Lee is costumed with two protruding upper fangs, which in reality would get stuck. A successful blood sucker would need to have a rat-like chewing action, with both an upper and lower set of fangs to gnaw on a victim's neck.*

*Don’t try this at home. Go buy yourself a black pudding if you need a blood fix.