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You have to hand it to the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen, a small research institution founded by Rene Redzepi of Noma restaurant, for pushing the culinary envelope in its endeavours to develop new flavours and cut down on the unsavoury environmental effects of the global food trade.

Under the direction of Edinburgh-born Ben Reade, head of culinary research and development (see Heralds passim), ancient and indigenous plants are being used to recreate flavours that are not natural to the local terroir. For example, the NFL has recreated an extraordinarily authentic substitute for the flavour of chocolate using roasted barley koji (cacao not being indigenous to the northern hemisphere). Citrus flavours, too, have been recreated using fermented carrot juice, and saltiness by using dried kelp. Experiments on a sweet Scottish tablet made from hops are ongoing.

Now, in the land that has given the world Danepak bacon, the NFL has turned its attention to the application of pigs' blood in food and has developed recipes for sourdough-blood pancakes, blood ice cream, blood meringues and "chocolate" blood sponge cake.

This may sound like a dramatic departure from its usual practice of using "forgotten" indigenous ingredients, for Denmark slaughters over 20 million pigs each year. However, most pig blood is used in animal feed, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and - bizarrely - cigarette filters; dried blood is used as fish food and fertiliser. Thus a situation has arisen where it's difficult to reclaim it for use in food.

Thanks to its natural coagulating properties, it can be used in sweet products as a substitute for egg - useful when egg intolerance is one of Europe's largest allergies. A further benefit is its ability to prevent anaemia, the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide.

However, although blood has been used as food for as long as animals have been killed and eaten, modern British consumers (even those without ethical, religious or cultural beliefs) have a strong aversion to it, probably because it's so rarely used these days except, of course, in black pudding.

It's on the menu of the two-Michelin-starred Mugaritz in Spain, in the guise of pig's blood macaroon; in Italy a chocolate dessert, sanguinaccio, using blood as thickener, is popular during Lent.

All of which adds an, ahem, ironic twist to snout-to-tail eating.

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Food and drink

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