Story by Sarah Jane Gourlay
White pudding is delicious – it’s like marmite, you either love it or hate it. I love it! Our Christmas turkey is never without it and throughout the year we make any excuse to stuff it in to a Sunday roast, but what exactly is it? Before getting to the ingredients I should tell you that what I recently believed to be called white pudding is in fact called mealy pudding that can also be spelt mealie and can sometimes bear the name of vegetarian haggis. Phew! I also found that all three are different but depending on where you find it they can be fashioned as the same thing.
I had some research to do. This food clearly has an identity crisis. Whatever you call it they can all be described as savoury oatmeal ‘puddings’ full of flavour and moreish-ness, heralding from Scotland and Ireland. So how are they all different and the same? It is possible, I assure you.
White pudding is the sister to black pudding and commonly found as a savoury oatmeal sausage containing oatmeal, bread, suet (raw beef or mutton fat) and sometimes shredded pork. It can also be found without the suet and pork as a vegetarian option. It is usually fried in individual slices and served as part of a traditional Irish or Scottish breakfast but also found in the form of a deep-fried battered sausage in your local Scottish chippy. Deadly but delicious it is known as a white pudding supper if you care to try it the next time you are heading north, I have never found it anywhere else. Not that I’ve been looking.
Mealy or mealie pudding (referred to as mealy from now on) commonly comes as a haggis shaped pudding. This is what my mum uses and what I called white pudding for many years although many references show that the mealy pudding is often referred to as white pudding. It contains oatmeal, onions, spices, seasoning and beef suet. Sometimes it can be found with pork meat hence the mix up with white pudding and the beef suet can be replaced with vegetable fat. It is a traditional Scottish dish served with neeps and tatties, as part of a fried breakfast or a stuffing.
Vegetarian haggis is the alternative to the traditional Scottish haggis. They both contain oatmeal, spices and seasoning (like the mealy and white pudding) and where suet, sheep’s heart, liver and lungs (gulp!) make up the rest of the ingredients in the animal-stomach-encased haggis, vegetarian haggis contains a variety of vegetables, nuts, seasoning and vegetable fat stuffed in to a man-made casing. It can be served like haggis, with neeps and tatties, as a stuffing, a loaf, a sausage sliced and used in fried breakfasts or deep-fried pakora-style.
Whilst white pudding, mealy pudding and vegetarian haggis all have the same main ingredient, oatmeal, there are many versions of each whether there are different seasonings or the type of fat used to bind the ingredients together and in the case of vegetarian haggis the ingredients can be as diverse as you want, especially if you are making it yourself. These oatmeal puddings are warming, hearty and you can adapt them to fit almost any dish as an accompaniment or the main event.
If all this has you wanting to try some oatmeal pudding for yourself do some research in to possible local stockist or have a go at making some yourself. Vegetarian haggis should be readily available in supermarkets, deli’s and butchers. White pudding and mealy pudding however will be a little harder to find outside of Scotland. Macsween(http://www.macsween.co.uk/) make haggis, vegetarian haggis and black pudding and offer a mail order service through Aubrey Allen (http://www.aubreyallen.co.uk/) and have a stockist search on their website. Aubrey Allen also sells rings of white pudding. Mealy pudding is a little harder to buy online and seems to be more and more commonly referred to as white pudding. You should be able to buy it quite readily in Scottish supermarkets, outside of Scotland your local butcher or deli may stock it or know where you can find it, asking for white pudding is your best bet. Outside of Britain there may be variations to an oatmeal pudding, it would be great to hear if you have come across any and if you have tried it before and where you found it.
About the author: Sarah-Jane Gourlay is currently doing work experience with the online team and writing various stories about food for JamieOliver.com. Although she grew up in England, she is half-Scottish and is pleased to share her love of a traditional favourite.
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