January 26th, 2012
Faggots are a traditional English dish, particularly popular in the Midlands (especially popular during the second world war). A faggot is a mixture of pork offal, generally comprised of bacon, belly, heart, liver, minced up with herbs and seasoning. Genuine faggots should be wrapped in caul fat from the pig’s abdomen.
Caul is a membrane with streaks of fat in it – so it holds the faggot together while cooking, lubricating and adding flavour at the same time.
I noticed the faggots on the Downlands stall at the Islington Farmers’ Market on Sunday – they were £1 each. Downlands are award winning pig farmers and pork butchers, so I expected a good quality product.
Faggots are a cooked meat product, like haggis or black pudding. The ingredients are cooked beforehand and then rolled into a ball and wrapped in the caul fat. One can buy pre made faggots as I did, or make them your self.
Faggots in Onion Gravy recipe:
2 faggots per person
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 heaped dessertspoonful of flour
1 pint of beef stock (preferably home made)
a glass of red wine
a splash of red wine vinegar
a squirt of tomato purée
a knob of butter
a little olive oil
seasoning to taste
Faggots are traditionally browned in a little butter, before slow oven cooking in an onion gravy.
Being greedy, I bought four!
Brown the faggots all over in butter (I added a little olive oil to the butter). Once browned, remove the faggots from the pan.
Fry the onions in the same pan (ideally a cast iron casserole) until they caramelise a little (don’t let them burn).
Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two,
before mixing in the flour.
Slowly stir in the beef stock and allow it to bubble and thicken.
Stir in the wine, vinegar and purée, then taste the gravy. Add some seasoning if necessary, but don’t overdo it, since the faggots have a lot of flavour which will add to the gravy as they cook.
When the gravy looks and tastes good (don’t let it get really thick since it’s going to cook in the oven with the faggots), drop the faggots into it and put the lid on the pan.
Cook in a preheated oven at 180º C for about to an hour. I suggest checking at 30 minutes – if at this point the gravy is getting too think, stir in some water or more wine.
Serve with peas and mashed potato. I was particularly impressed with the Downlands faggots – they were well flavoured, solid, meaty and delicious – I doubt that they contained any breadcrumbs. It turned out that 2 were enough, even for me, but I do have dinner ready for another day!