While the idea of cooking with blood probably makes you a little nauseous, the team at the Nordic Food Lab is all about experimenting and pushing the envelope when it comes to cuisine. Which is how they ended up studying blood as an egg substitute.
The idea of using blood as an egg substitute is interesting from a scientific and cultural perspective, both integral focuses of the Nordic Food Lab. For much of history, when the entire animal was used instead of just select parts, blood played an important role in cooking, and its use has a long culinary history in Europe. You don’t have to look that far to find its influence; blood sausage is found in many European cuisines, from Scandinavia to France to Poland.
Using blood in meat products is nothing new, but the Nordic Food Lab took it one step further, to see if blood’s coagulating properties could help perform the same role that eggs do in baking.
We are interested in (re)valorising the despised and forgotten, so we had to look deeper into what blood is, how it should be handled, and what to use it for. Its coagulating properties led us to focus on blood as an egg-substitute in sweet products, since egg intolerance is one of the major food allergies affecting children in Europe.
In fact, eggs and blood show similar protein compositions, particularly with the albmin that gives both their coagulant properties. Based on these similarities, a substitution ratio of 65g of blood for one egg (approx. 58g), or 43g of blood for one egg white (approx. 33g) can be used in the kitchen. Using this method, we have developed recipes for sourdough-blood pancakes, blood ice cream, blood meringues, and ‘chocolate’ blood sponge cake.
Blood ice cream probably isn’t going to make it into the local ice cream truck anytime soon, but using blood for food actually makes quite a bit more sense than where it currently ends up. According to the Nordic Food Lab, about 70 percent of blood from pigs is “separated into plasma and serum used in animal feed, pharmaceutics, cosmetics, and commercial products like cigarette filters.”
Cooking with blood is an essential part of “nose to tail” cooking and eating, and if you are going to eat meat, it’s certainly worth making the argument that the entire animal should be put to use, eliminating waste and taking advantage of the natural properties that animal products contain.
So, blood pancakes for breakfast then? While the idea of blood in your food may make you cringe, when we’re thinking about eating more locally, seasonally and with less waste, it’s ideas like this that will force the culinary world to get more creative, and put real food to better use.
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Image: Robert S. Donovan