Making Faggots in Gravy.

 **Note: This is a provisional recipe and subject to change.**

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I love Mr. Brain’s Faggots in Gravy, but they have a design fault in that, despite being extremely tasty, they have little substance and the ingredients are pretty naff. Rehydrated pork rind predominates, followed by 15% pigs’ liver and 4% pork, with the consistency of foam – I can do a lot better. The gravy is, in fact, far tastier than the faggots themselves – no real surprise there, given the ingredients – something which I intend to change.

I don’t know, right now, when I’ll be making them, as I’m still out of action. Hopefully in a couple of weeks, to get some stock in the freezer before winter. As I keep saying, when I’m able to I tend to cook for the freezer; to be clear, DWP snoops, I cannot, if provided with the ingredients, cook on demand.

So far the process has been run only in my head, so it might well be subject to minor change once it hits the real world. I don’t foresee any major changes, more likely just changes in quantity, so what follows is, essentially, my starting point.

What I’m aiming for is tasty faggots, with a texture that says, Yep, real meat in here (not sodding pigskin), with an intensely flavourful gravy. Traditionally, faggots are wrapped in caul, the lacy, fatty, membrane that wraps a pig’s intestines. Not the faintest idea where I’d get that, so I’ll do without it. Anyway, in essence, a faggot is just a meatball with attitude.

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Make the gravy first – you’ll be poaching the finished faggots in it.

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Note: All spoons are measuring spoons.

For the gravy:-

2.5 litres hot water (this might be too much, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, putting up my own food for the freezer, it’s that too much gravy is preferable to not enough – any excess will freeze), to which add the following, up to and including the HP sauce:-

2 Kallo organic vegetable cubes, dissolved in a little of the water

4 tablespoons Knorr Touch of Taste Chicken

1 dessertspoon soy sauce

1 level teaspoon celery salt

1 tablespoon tomato purée

3 tablespoons Bisto Caramelised Red Onion Gravy mix**

1 dessertspoon HP sauce

**Put about half a pint of the water in a jug, stir in the gravy mix and, when smooth, return to the bulk.

You will also need:-

3 medium onions

4 tablespoons plain flour (I use bread flour, it gives very good results and rarely goes lumpy)

2 tablespoons of lard (see comment below)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

Fine sea salt (if needed), and black pepper.

I have a jar of powdered, dehydrated vegetables, mostly aromatics (I buy dried veg, and blitz them in a Krups F203 coffee mill kept for the purpose). It’s entirely possible some of that might find its way into the gravy.

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Finely chop the onions and soften, without colouring, in the lard.** When soft, stir in 2 teaspoons of ground cumin and the same of sweet paprika. Cook out for a few minutes, stirring frequently, then add the flour. The roux should be fairly fluid, so add more lard/oil/butter as needed, and keep stirring for a few more minutes.

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**I render my own lard, as shop-bought lard tastes of nothing (OK for baking, not for cooking), or a 50-50 mix of olive oil and butter is good.

Once the roux is smooth, apart from the onions, remove from the heat and add about a quarter of the hot – not boiling – flavoured water, stirring constantly. Once this is smooth and thick, add the rest of the water a little at a time, and don’t stint on the stirring. When all the water has been added, return to the heat and bring slowly up to the boil, stirring constantly, making sure it doesn’t stick or go lumpy. If, despite everything, it does go lumpy, blitz it with a stick blender. It’ll purée the onions, but it doesn’t matter.

Once you’ve added all the water and its freight of flavourings, simmer gently for half an hour. Remove from the heat, taste, season as required with the salt and pepper,  and set aside. It would be beneficial to make the gravy the day before the faggots, so the flavourings have time to snuggle up to each other.

The finished gravy should be smooth and glossy, but not too thick. It will also be quite light in colour, which matters not at all.

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For the faggots:-

Equal quantities of belly pork and pigs’ liver finely minced – how much depends entirely on how many faggots you’re making.

500g of each, let’s say

100g rusk – occasionally I bake a loaf purely for rusk, which is stored in the fridge. Assuming you don’t, dry slices of whatever bread you have on a radiator, then reduce to crumbs in a blender (dried fresh bread tastes better than stale bread). Or buy Panko crumbs.

1 medium onion, minced

2 or 3 level teaspoons dried sage (depending on how much you like it)

3 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

3 teaspoons black pepper

1 egg and 1 egg yolk, to bind

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Wash the belly pork in cold water if bloody. Drain in a colander then pat dry with kitchen towel. Skin it, if it’s not already skinned, remove any bone and wet, fibrous fat, cut up into smallish pieces and set aside.

Wash the liver, drain and dry as with the pork. Take out any obvious plumbing, cut into smallish pieces.

Mince both using the finest plate (depending on how fine that is, you might have to mince it twice).

Add all the dry ingredients to the rusk, then mix into the minced meat, along with the eggs. The best way of doing this is simply to get your hands in it – best to wear disposable vinyl gloves too.

If, like me, you have painful hands, and have a stand mixer, using that, with the dough hook, will get most of the grunt work done.

When you’ve finished mixing, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for an hour or so to chill. Or overnight.

Later, or next day, preheat the oven to 190C, gas 6, and shape the chilled mix into balls a little smaller than golf balls, and set in a lightly greased roasting tin, not touching each other.

Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm to the touch (use the back of a fork).

While the faggots are roasting, reheat the gravy, stirring frequently. It will be quite thick at first, but will thin out as it heats up. Once it’s warm, but not boiling,  transfer the gravy to a bigger pan, as you’ll be adding the faggots. Finish heating to boiling point.

Remove the faggots from the oven and sit the roasting tin on the hob next to the pan with the gravy. Using a fish slice, in case any have stuck, carefully remove the faggots, and transfer to the gravy. As long as it’s not swimming in fat (if it is, pour it off and keep it), deglaze the roasting tin with a little boiling water, scraping up any stuck bits, and add to the gravy.

Once they’re all in, simmer very gently for half an hour, then remove to a cold place – the kitchen floor is good, if it’s tiled or concrete – and allow to cool until barely warm.

At this point, fish out the faggots with a slotted spoon and transfer to foil freezer dishes, 3 or 4 to each one, depending on size, then cover with gravy, put on the lids, seal, and leave until cold.

Be sure to write the name and date on the lids, and freeze.

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NOTE: You can use ground coriander instead of cumin if you wish, they both go well with pork as well as paprika. Don’t be tempted to add more sage – a little goes a long way. If you don’t like sage, try dried oregano or marjoram. Don’t be tempted to use dried thyme, it’s way too spiky.

Four spoonie spoons if all done on one day, three if spread over two days.

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11 thoughts on “Making Faggots in Gravy.

  1. OMG Ron… I bloody love faggots, I really do, Home-made ones are terrific, but I cheat and buy them from the butcher. You’re right about the Mr Brain’s brand; now reduced to a mousse-like consisentency which makes them not worth eating. They used to be considerably more substantial, as I remember. Proper faggots served with lots of peppery gravy, a yielding mound of peas (processed marrowfats or mushy) and a big hunk of fresh bread soaking up all those flavours… Winter tea-time heaven. Vinegar or no vinegar? Not for me, but some hardliners do.

    • Got some apple balsamic vinegar on the way – a splash in the gravy might be good . . .

      Been meaning to buy some canned marrowfats for a while – keep forgetting. And mousse would have been better than foam – words hide from me (ME-induced aphasia).

    • And it just has to be white pepper.

      For something like 40 years I’ve used black pepper because it was better than white, but with modern processing techniques, the white pepper available now (not Lion brand, which is as dire as ever, but Schwartz), is very much more complex than it used to be, and while I still use black when cooking, increasingly I use white for on-the-plate seasoning. The trick is to keep pepper in sealed glass jars, away from sunlight, with only a teaspoon or so in the shaker. That way, the loss of volatile oils is kept to a minimum. And never buy large bags; Schwartz’s little Cellophane bags might be fiddly, but they do keep it fresh.

  2. Sound lovely – but I’m afraid I cheat, too, and buy faggots from Cardiff’s indoor market. I do make my own gravy, but all I add is some onion, herbes de provence, a lamb Oxo and some Worcestershire sauce…
    As for the marrowfat peas – yes! A must! When I was a child the brand on the tin was Mortons, but now we get Farrow’s GIANT marrowfat peas.
    We used to have Brain’s faggots, although didn’t it used to say on the pack “savoury ducks”?
    One thing I haven’t seen for decades is REAL faggots with bits of intestine and fat wrapped around the outside. Those were the days!
    I hope you get to eat your faggots soon :)

    • Haven’t seen faggots called savoury ducks (with a short “a”), since the 50s, Pat. Come to think of it, it’s probably that long since I’ve seen fresh ones at all (pork butchers always had them, but where will you find a pork butcher these days?).

      They’re still big in South Wales, and the former Black Country, from where they spread nationally during WW2 (offal was off-ration), but afterwards pretty much retreated to the heartlands, though Brain’s keep the flag flying nationally. I don’t think the market is huge round here – people would rather have chicken tikka masala, made with knackered old battery chickens, than one of our historical national dishes.

      One question, though – why lamb Oxo with pork?

      Incidentally, there’s not a lot I won’t eat (except tripe), but I’ll never eat anonymous chicken, simply because they’re not just clapped-out battery birds, they’re too often Chinese clapped-out battery birds. Who the hell wants chicken from the home of bird flu? Anyway, the Chinese are so good at periodically poisoning their own people I wouldn’t trust them.

      One thing Brain’s do amazingly well is the gravy, which is incredibly tasty (and while they detail what’s in the faggots, they say nothing useful about the gravy). I can’t replicate it, but I reckon I can duplicate its depth and intensity, even if it tastes different. I’ve never seen their faggots labelled as savoury ducks (probably illegal now, not being ducks at all (which also put paid to Bombay Duck, I believe), unless they go with “also known as . . .”), though the labelling might well vary according to the region. And the product is so ubiquitous in some minds, it even features in the the faggots photo in the Wikipedia section.

      By the way, the best haggis I’ve ever eaten came from a butcher’s in Aberystwyth.

      I haven’t had marrowfat peas for decades. As with many people, they were pushed out by the convenience of frozen peas, but they just had to be Batchelor’s which, annoyingly, Tesco don’t sell – just Farrow’s Giant, and their own brand, and for some reason I find the idea of a giant pea singularly unappealing. Marrowfats, though, soak up gravy (or butter), in a way that “garden” peas will never equal. I must put some on next week’s Tesco order.

  3. Hi Ron,

    Not a fan of faggots, but do ou have any tax stew recipes to share? Perhaps for a slow cooker?

    The winter nights are drawing in and comfort food is on the agenda!!

    • There’s a few scattered around – type stew into the Search box, that’ll bring them up. Not specifically for a slow cooker, but that’s no problem – just cook them for longer.

  4. In answer to your question, Ron, I use lamb Oxo cubes because I like them, also I didn’t realise the offal in faggots was pork offal, and I don’t know if you can get pork Oxo?
    As for the marrowfat peas, yes, they have always been my favourites, better even than “real” peas or frozen peas (or even Surprise peas – remember them?) – but I draw the line at mushy peas, which go a bit too far in the amorphous direction…
    Cheers – and I’m pleased I read elsewhere that your medication is not too bad at the moment :)

    • Actually, Pat, faggots are entirely pig – liver and belly pork. Or, at least, they should be, and there, in their homeland, I’d expect it.

      Knorr do a Pork stock cube. I tend to just use Kallo organic veg cubes for pretty much everything these days, they produce a light, herby stock which can be tweaked according to what you use it for. Add an Oxo for beef, plus a little soy sauce, and once it’s cooked out the typical Oxo taste is gone. Knorr Touch of Taste liquid stocks are pretty good too, except the veggie version which is absolutely dreadful – loaded with mint and fennel and, mysteriously, it’s black.

      I checked out all the Marrowfat peas at Tesco – every one has added mint, so I ordered some dried ones – I’ll cook and freeze them.

      Tesco also sells hearts, cleaned and sliced – I suspect the future will contain home-made haggis! :)

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