**Note: This is a provisional recipe and subject to change.**
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.
Make the gravy first – you’ll be poaching the finished faggots in it.
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.
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.
**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.
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
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.
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.