Cobble Lane Cured Nduja – Some like it hot

Today, let me introduce you to a very special ingredient indeed. Nduja (pronounced en-doo-ya). The latest fad in cooking. One which has crept into professional kitchens in the past two or three years, walking the same culinary footpath as salted caramel.

Chances are you’ve spied it (as I have) anywhere and everywhere. From the local spots that are a bit more hoity toity. If not, it’s on its way – I promise!

But what is this ‘spreadable salami’ stuff? And why should we be giving it the time of day?

Let’s start our story in the scorchingly hot, dry heel of Italy, where the lush olive groves of Tuscany, vineyards of Veneto and lemon orchards of Sorrento give way to an altogether more punchy assault on the senses. This is a land of chillies, of plump aubergines, liquorice (yes really), boundless catches of seafood...the air scented with bergamot.

It is, in my eyes, the Provence of Italy, accented by a craggy, dramatic, mountain-flanked coastline – cliff faces dropping away into the clearest azure waters.

Plonk yourself in the Calabrian municipality of Spilinga – an area sub-divided into many villages and communes. It is here where the origins of this soft, unctuous epicurean delight are said to have roots – possibly influenced by Spanish sobrasada, or the (much more challenging) French andouille.

Nduja very likely began life, as all good things do, as a means of preserving the fat of the land. In this case, the now-revered ‘scraps’ of pig belly, shoulder, jowl/cheek, and the area’s vast crops of thin, spicy pipereju, and sweet tunduliju chillies.

Combined with a hefty amount of flavoursome pork fat, something rather special began to come together. An addictively spicy, melting salami. Like an uber-posh version of meat paste (I really am asking you to think outside the box here).

While in Italy it was (and to some extent still is) considered peasant food, nduja’s star is rising elsewhere. It’s become coveted by chefs for its incredible versatility and whoosh of flavour.

And that brings me to Cobble Lane Cured’s version. Formed by two foodies with a background in butchery, the London-based fermenting and curing brand can be considered up there with the best in the charcuterie business. After spending time honing skills with masters in Europe, they formed relationships with higher welfare, smaller scale farmers and producers to incorporate traceable, higher welfare, flavoursome meat into their range. This includes the Islington Saucisson (a former winner of best salami in the UK), Cajun Jerky, snacking chorizo, beef and pork pepperoni, and guanciale – for making authentic carbonara.

Then there’s the Cobble Lane Cured Nduja. If you’re going to give this ingredient a try, I heartily recommend you start here. Don’t fall for those jarred imposters in your local supermarket. I’ve found them harshly acidic and flat. They cannot mimic what Cobble Lane have come up with. Their version combines pork with paprika and a trio of chillies – Aleppo, Brazilian and Kashmiri – and is smoked gently over oak.

With all those big, bolshy elements at play, you’d think this nduja was going to be somewhat of a culinary bully. But it’s not. The smoke is there, with a whisper. The heat of the chilli is there, but subtle – you rather get the flavour of the chillies coming through. There’s not too much salt. And, most importantly, you can still taste the pork. It is gorgeous.

Snap some up if you see it in independent food stores and delis, or buy at where there are even charcuterie subscription boxes.

How to use nduja

  1. As an easy first step, rip some onto a homemade pizza where it will melt into oozing puddles, scented every bite with chilli.

  2. Do as Dave Wall (at Estrella Damm top 10 gastropub The Unruly Pig) does – add it to a risotto and form into arancini. Dave puts taleggio in the middle. Yum.

  3. Fry with garlic, add cream and lemon zest and toss through pasta with plenty of black pepper and Parmesan.

  4. Spread over bread as antipasti (it’s ready to eat) and top with sweet, flamed peppers.

  5. Make it into a savoury butter (see below) for a souped-up chicken kiev.

Nduja butter

Tuck this inside chicken (or even chunky white fish fillets), flour, egg and breadcrumb, and you’ve got a very fancy kiev indeed.

For four people blitz together 100g nduja, 75g unsalted butter, 2tbsps fresh parsley, 3 cloves garlic. Taste for salt and pepper.

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