Sunday, April 14, 2013

#373 Faggots and Peas

In case you are worried here a faggot is in fact a pork meatball and not a homosexual. The word faggot actually comes from the old Norman fagot, which was a bundle of sticks tied up with string. Coal also came in faggots. Here, the pork meat is bundled in a piece of caul fat which also acts as a permanent basting.

It’s worth mentioning that the derogatory meaning of faggot has not fully infiltrated the United Kingdom from the USA; whenever my Dad called me a ‘bad-tempered faggot-face’ when I was being a wingey child (which was probably often), he wasn’t meaning I had the face of camp man. Or maybe he was…

I didn’t think faggots are that popular these days, but on a recent trip to Swansea, I noticed that every single butcher in the market sold them. They are also still very popular in the black country. It is still possible to buy Mr Brain’s faggots in onion gravy in supermarkets, but they apparently bear little resemblance to proper faggots; though I have to say, I had never eaten or cooked them before.

Faggots were invented as a way of using up all the offcuts and offal from butchers’ pig carcasses, they contain some breadcrumbs to both absorb some of the fat and to ‘cut’ the strong offal flavours. They have been dubbed Britain’s first take-away fast food by some, because faggots were sold at the end of the day for hungry workers to pick up on their way home after a hard day’s graft.

Two things that might put you off making/eating faggots are the offal and the caul fat, but don’t let it; offal cuts are very delicious. The strange lacy caul fat looks a bit strange at first, but it crisps up nicely on top as the faggots brown in the oven. It’s not hard to get caul fat; your local butcher should have some, and it should be very cheap or even free, though you may need to give them a bit of notice. Jane says that to get caul ‘you will need to go to a small family butcher, preferably an older man, who really understands meat’. To use it, just soak it in water so that it can unfurl and be much easier to handle.
Caul fat

As you can tell by the title of this post, faggots are traditionally served with peas. Good Lady Grigson suggests #4 Green Peas in the summer and #295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns in the winter, but I wanted to serve it with a classic pease pudding (but you’ll have to wait for the next post for that recipe).

These faggots are made using pork belly and pig’s liver, but you can use any offal such as heart or kidney. Likewise, you could exchange the pork belly for another cut – just be careful to either use a fatty cut or add some streaky bacon to increase the fat content.

Here’s how to make this ‘good-tempered dish’:

Mince (or ask your butcher to mince) one pound of pig’s liver and 10 ounces of belly of pork and toss into a frying pan along with two chopped onions and a chopped clove of garlic and cook them gently for about half an hour.
Try to not allow the meat or onions to take on any brown colour. Strain off the juices into a bowl and set them aside. Mix the meaty mixture with four chopped sage leaves (or a teaspoon of dried sage), half a teaspoon of ground mace, two medium eggs and enough breadcrumbs to make ‘a firm, easy-to-handle mixture’. I used four ounces. Have a taste of the mixture and season appropriately with salt and pepper.

Form the mixture into balls weighing two ounces apiece, then spread out the soaked caul fat and cut it into approximate five inch square pieces. Wrap each meatball in the pieces of caul fat and arrange them in a shallow baking dish.
Pour in a quarter of a pint of pork, beef or veal stock and bake for 40 to 60 minutes. Twenty minutes or so before the end of the cooking time strain the cooking juices into the reserved liquor from earlier and stand the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes so that the fat quickly rises to the top and can be skimmed off. Return the liquid to the cooking faggots 5 minutes for the final five minutes of cooking.

#373 Faggots and Peas. These were very good – the texture of the faggots were quite mealy due to the liver in there and the mace gave them a real taste of haggis. I would definitely give these a go again, but perhaps with some other offal cuts. 7.5/10

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