Monday, 4 April 2011

Faggots braised in Bristol Beer Factory Bitter

Where it comes to meat, I’m an unrepentant consumer. I’m at my absolute happiest with a severed hoof hanging limply out of my mouth, whilst I clutch a blood spattered cleaver and drag an industrial polythene bag containing at least 2 Kilos of unidentifiable, bloody animal parts along with my other hand.

I go too far with the imagery perhaps, (just a little) but what I'm driving at, and I feel this can only be expressed in the following, almost primal sentence - ‘I likes me meat’, and I'm in no way squeamish about it in a raw state. Ever.

At least, I wasn’t. Until I made Faggots last week.

I was making the aforementioned meaty balls (steady) for our ‘Montpelier Basement’ supper club, and when I say ‘I’, it was very literally just me, a one-man show. ‘E’ had recoiled in horror long before at the sheer meaty carnage and was hiding somewhere in the house

It wasn’t just one or two that I had to make, I could have handled that, but I had to make 30 cricket ball sized globes, which meant digging my hands into 2 kilos of minced, pink, sticky, gelatinous seriously Offaly smelling pigs liver and then stirring through various spices, more pig; in the shape of a kilo of minced pork belly; breadcrumbs and herbs.

It was good stuff, Gloucester Old Spot, but strangely it didn't make me feel any better as I looked down into this quivering cauldron of mangled pig parts. I'm ashamed to say I almost broke. I really didn't fancy putting my mitts in there. But then quite suddenly, I got a grip and with a small sigh and a ‘lets get on with this’ shrug of resignation, of the type you’ll often see from new parents changing a particularly loathsome shitty nappy, I relented and slowly sank my hands in, seemingly up to the elbow

Warm and sticky.

I’d be hard pressed to describe anything about the process pleasant, but I got stuck in and it wasn’t long before the breadcrumbs and spices had mixed through nicely with the meat and it all looked a hell of a lot more palatable. By the time I’d rolled out a couple of trays of neat looking porky spheres, I was feeling quite pleased with myself.

Next came wrapping them in Caul fat. I’d read about its use often, but never actually got my hands on some. It’s basically the membrane that surrounds a pig’s internal organs and looks almost web like in appearance. It’s awesome stuff with amazing stretching qualities. I little goes a long way, and it wasn't long before my meaty globes (hahaha) were encased in the most incredibly organic looking wrappers.

We’d decided to braise them in a combination of chicken stock and gorgeous Bristol Beer Factory No.7 Bitter. Not to blow our own trumpet (much) they were a thumping success.
Everyone almost with exception absolutely loved them. I tried one, and it was surprisingly light, quite spicy and intensely meaty. We served each with some local Sharpham Park pearled spelt (cooked in the same way as a risotto, with chopped sage stirred through at the end), and buttered Savoy Cabbage.

If I’m honest, it’s probably one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever cooked. To make something so excellent out of such seemingly unappetising ingredients really strikes a chord for my inner peasant.

Here’s the recipe.

Gloucester Old Spot Faggots braised in Bristol Beer Factory No.7

Serves 6

You’ll Need: -

20g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed.
sea salt and black pepper
1/3 Tsp ground mace
1/3 Tsp allspice
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 Tsp chopped sage
1 Tsp chopped thyme
1 heaped Tbsp of finely chopped parsley
400g pork liver, trimmed and minced
250g minced pork belly (Gloucester Old Spot if available).
125g fresh white breadcrumbs
150g caul fat – soaked in water

For the Gravy: -

15g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp plain flour
½ Tsp tomato puree
250ml Bristol Beer Factory No-7 Bitter
500ml chicken stock
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce

To make the faggots, melt the butter in a small pan and add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sweat for 6-8 minutes until soft but not coloured. Tip into a large mixing bowl and leave to cool.

Tip in ALL of the rest of the ingredients, (except the caul fat) and season well. Think happy thoughts and get your hands in there, mixing well.
Divide the mixture into 6 portions, and roll into neat balls. Place on a tray, cover with Clingfilm and chill for at least 30mins to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 200C.Wrap each faggot in the caul fat, overlapping the edges, which should stick.Place in a lightly oiled roasting tray, spacing apart. Press to flatten very slightly, season and bake for 30-35 mins until browned.

Whilst this is happening, make the gravy.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Season and sweat. Stir frequently for 5-6 mins, until beginning to soften. Stir in the flour and the tomato purée to make a paste. Stir for a minute or 2, and then pour in the Bitter, stirring the whole time.

Boil and reduce by two thirds. Pour in the chicken stock, and bring back to a simmer for 10-15mins, until slightly thickened. Season to taste, and add a few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce.

Pour the gravy over the faggots to coat them all and bake for another 10-15mins. Baste them halfway through and serve when the faggots are nicely glazed.

(Recipe adapted from the rather excellent Great British Pub Food)


Exciting news, and validation in particular of how cool I am, and by association, how cool you lot are for reading my blog. We’re all frigging tres cool basically, and here’s the reason why.
In the latest issue of Esquire, glossy magazine for the discerning gentleman, I was listed as one of the ‘5 Food Bloggers the restaurants fear’.Which I don’t believe for a second, but it stroked my needy and fragile ego rather nicely, and for that I am eternally grateful.


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Huzzah for meaty faggotts - long overdue a renaissance, imho. Well done, you.

Oh, and another well done, you, for the recognition afforded you by Esquire. Global domination, next stop ;)

The Ample Cook said...

An heroic effort Dan - they look delicious. You can't beat being elbow deep in warm animal innards can you? ;)

Well done on the Esquire entry too.

Pavel said...

I love faggots! I know well the visceral nature of preparing lots of meat. Try prepping 5 kilos of Kidneys with a hang over, now that is fun...

bron said...

Caul fat is the loveliest fat in the world.

Gourmet Butcher said...

Fantastic reading Dan and well done for not being put off by the look, smell, feel of the liver!

Dan said...

Aforkfulofspaghetti - Agreed, Huzzah for Faggots!! Thanks Helen. I offered Esquire a follow up article with me posing in my underpants.... so far, no reply.

The Ample Cook - Heroic...I like this description, yes...yes *strokes beard*...I am heroic indeed. Yes elbow deep in innards is the only place to be. Esquire - Ta Jan

Pavel - Visceral great word sir, I bow to your usage. 5 Kilos? With a hangover? Screw that.

Bron - It is rather lovely isn't it - totally agree.

Gourmet Butcher - Thanks very much. It was touch and go, but I took the plunge...literally!

P.S. Forgot to mention, massive thanks to Joe at Source Food Cafe in Bristol's St Nicholas Market for supplying all the meaty bits including the caul fat. Nice one fella.

Emma Jay said...


gastrogeek said...

eeeeeeeurgh! But well done on being so brave about it - hope E wasn't too traumatised, I most definitely would have been...

Dan said...

Emma Jay - Not feeling the Faggots Emma?

Gastrogeek - Hahahaha I am incredibly brave, thank you Rej. 'E'? She hid away and left me to it, she's not traumatised.

Graphic Foodie said...

Mmmmmm. I likes me some of those! They look fab. Well done on the Esquire piece too.

Pavel said...

Twas from my pub days - 2.5 kilos for steak and kidney and the rest to go on Mixed Grills! It's the reason I cant eat kidney any more :^)

Dan said...

Graphic Foodie - Hey thanks Fran :)

Pavel - I imagine dealing with kilos of pig liver whilst sporting a hangover could put anyone off for life.

Jenny Eatwell said...

Oh, I'm so going to have a go at faggots. They can't be any more gory or disgusting than making the chicken liver pate I made recently. That really was an exercise in mind over matter. We recently tried Mr Brains' faggots and were repelled by the texture. So reassure me - yours didn't wind up like a ball of meaty porridge, did they?

Dan said...

Jenny Eatwell - You should certainly try making them. I can reassure you that the only similarity between my handmade Gloucester old spot Faggots and Brains Faggots is the term 'Faggot'. They're mass produced, factory made rubbish.

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

ahhh I love a warm and sticky faggot... my favourite way to have 'em (ooh err missus - sorry couldn't resist) good for you for doing the whole process geniuinely... great stuff... and well done you for your mention in Esquire... that's bloody good stuff mate... I am now fiercely proud to say I know you!

Food Urchin said...

You come over all a quiver with your hands entrenched in pig meat? Dan, what gives? Time to man up especially if you're going to get mentions in Esquire and all.

Lovely recipe by the way!

Dan said...

Dom - Fabulous double entendre work sir. Thank you very much.

Food Urchin - A golden opportunity missed my friend... "You come over all a quiver with your hands entrenched in pig MEAT?"....Pig Meat?!! How about 'You come over all a quiver with your hands entrenched in LIVER?' it rhymes see? that's why I'm in Esquire *taps head* - I'm like the frigging poet laureate or sumfink.

Jonathan said...

In the words of Patricia Arquette in True Romance - "Your so caul. Your so caul. Your so caul."

Good stuff.

Food Urchin said...

You are a frigging genius and I am simply not worthy