In Spain, there is a famous saying: “Del cerdo me gustan hasta los andares (About the pig, I like even the way they walk).” It sounds funny, but it really means that, as a culture, they enjoy using every bit of the animal, from nose to tail. You are just as likely to find pig’s feet, snout, or ears, as a loin, on any menu in Spain.
Every year in the Spanish countryside, families slaughter their pigs on or around November 11th, Dia de San Martiño, in a traditional event called matanza. Nothing goes to waste, including the blood. In the rest of Spain, that has meant the various blood sausages like morcilla, that are so famous and well-loved. In Galicia, where they don’t really make many blood sausages, somehow pig’s blood became known for this dessert treat.
In Galicia, crepes are called “filloas” (pronounced feel-yó-ahs), and they are pretty much like the French ones everyone knows. Just like the French ones, millions of sweet and savory variations exist. In Galicia, these blood-based crepes, called “filloa de sangre,” are served as a sweet treat during matanza, and they are different than any other crepes you’ll ever see.
It’s a weird recipe. Because blood coagulates and sets up on its own, eggs are usually not included, and less flour is used than in typical crepe recipes. There’s a fair amount of sugar, and dried figs and raisins are cooked in the crepe batter. Some people use milk, some don't. I thought it would help the texture a little, so I put in a small amount. There are lots of variations, including different spices added, that change from family to family.
I have cooked a lot of crepes in my life (at work, I sometimes used to cook them a couple hundred at a time), but I never made a crepe anything like these. And not just the ingredients. The technique is a little different as well. Normally, with crepes, you slowly pour the batter into the hot pan while moving it around to form a thin even layer around the pan while it sets up. The batter for the filloas de sangre is so liquidy that you can just leave the pan flat and ladel in the batter. It will spread out on its own to fill the pan. You have to wait for it to really set up, at which point you flip it, and cook it further on the other side.
Some practical notes:
If you live in an Asian neighborhood, you can often find pig’s blood at ethnic markets, especially southeast asian. I get it at a local Vietnamese market, in the refrigerated meat section. The blood is likely to be coagulated to some degree. It is likely to be coagulated (jelled), which means you will need to break it up a little bit with a whisk, then use a hand blender to get it back to liquid form. Be very careful not to splatter when working with the blood unless you want your kitchen and clothes to look like part of a crime scene. Blood stains dramatically.
3 cups pigs blood (blended first if it has coagulated or gelled)
½ cup whole milk
100g of flour
150g dried figs
40g (about 3 Tbsp) granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Bacon fat or oil for greasing the pan
1. Cut the raisins and figs into very small pieces – you can do this by pulsing in a food processor.
2. Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk together the milk and blood in a separate bowl. Pour the liquid into the flour, while slowly whisking to incorporate all of the flour. Try to avoid getting lumps. Take this mixture and place it in the blender, and blend for 10-15 seconds on high speed to further break up any lumps. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl. Let sit in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to allow the flour to fully hydrate.
3. Stir in the dried fruit, making sure it isn’t all clumped together. Heat a good pan on a medium flame.
Note: this is a little tricky with a nonstick pan. It will be significantly more difficult if you don’t use a nonstick pan. I use a 7” pan, which I think makes the perfect sized filloas
4. Use a paper towel to brush a very thin layer of fat into the hot pan. Pour in 3-4oz of batter into the pan, being sure to include lots of the dried fruit. Swirl the pan if necessary to spread the batter around, and use a spatula to make sure the fruit is spread evenly around the pan. Let cook, without disturbing for a couple minutes. When it looks like the filloa is set up (top looks solid, work a spatula around it’s edge, to loosen it up from the pan. When the filloa has totally released from the pan, carefully flip it using the spatula, and cook another minute or two on the second side. When the filloa releases from the pan on it’s own (slides freely), you can flip it out onto a plate. Top it with more granulated sugar and cinnamon. Repeat, stacking the filloas one on top of each other, each one getting a little sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar.
Serve fresh. They are loaded with flavor, have a surprisingly good texture, and really require no accompaniment but a good cup of coffee or a dessert wine. The leftovers keep covered in the fridge for a day or two, as well.