Insert: Stu’s sheep-killing knife. Main photo: They make soup out of this fucker’s head. Photos by Neil Thomson
One of the main delicacies on Barra is black pudding. It’s a tasty sausage of blood, fat and oats. We met a fisherman called Stu and his brother in-law Ian and they told us, over about 15 whiskies, how best to make it. That and another delicacy, sheep’s head soup.
Stu: See, when you kill a ram, or a beast or whatever. First thing you get the blood. Snick (motions slicing the jugular). Then you get the fat. The fat is like a quilt around the stomach. You’ve got to pull the fat out of it and put it in a basin. You have two basins, the blood and the fat, they’re both half full. Then you get the stomach.
Ian: You take the stomach out whole then you take it down the shore. You put the stomach on top of a rock, then take a rock the size of your hand and rub it like “Skrr skrr skrr” (mimics rubbing two rocks against the sheep’s stomach bag) and that takes all the impurities out and it adds a salty taste. After that you boil the sheep’s stomach for about two hours.
Stu: Then you put all the blood and the fat in there. You don’t need herbs or spices. The main thing is getting the blood out of the beast. The blood is a bugger y’know. You have to tie together three legs.
Ian: So one leg can kick the blood out into the bucket or the basin. It can be held up to the beast or left on the floor. Up to you. Some people don’t do it with the leg kicking out. If you don’t give a shit about bubbles in the blood it’s up to you. The bubbles make it congeal.
Ian: You can also have Mannick, which is white haggis, which is blood free. So that’s basically the vegetarian’s black pudding. But with the fat and it’s in a stomach. Another delicacy here is sheep’s head soup. Basically you get a bowl, you put methylated spirit on the sheep’s head to burn off the hair. You get this blue, invisible-ish flame with the head that’s been cut off the carcass that’s been hanging in the shed. You burn off as much of the hair on the ears or the face and you’re burning off all the blemishes as well. Then you scrape off with a knife what’s left, then you douse with water, and put the stuff in there. Because the sheep’s head makes the best stock. Have you ever had sheep’s head soup Stu?
Stu: Aye, and I’ll never have it again. Killing a sheep, meeeaaaah (mimics the sound of a sheep having its throat cut) it’s not a nice sight. You cannot be squeamish y’know.