Delicious parcels of ground pork and seasoning, wrapped in fat for maximum flavour and moisture. This Gluten-free and Paleo recipe does not use breadcrumbs.
Faggots are a traditional British offal dish that are a sort of halfway house between a meatball and a meatloaf. Like meatballs, they are made by mixing ground meat with herbs and seasoning, then shaping into balls. Like meatloaf, they are baked in the oven rather than gently poached in a sauce. The application of direct heat means that there is a danger that the meat will dry out during cooking, resulting in a tough and crumbly texture. To guard against this, faggots have an inner and an outer line of defence.
Inside the faggot, breadcrumbs are mixed in with the meat to absorb the juices released during cooking. Gluten-free options can be made by substituting with oats or cooked rice. A grain-free option can be made by using mushrooms that have been finely chopped to a breadcrumb-like consistency. Mushrooms are like mini sponges, and are excellent at soaking up and retaining liquid (which is why you should never wash mushrooms before cooking, as this will saturate them with water, meaning that they take a long time to release their juices and brown).
Outside the faggot, the meat is wrapped in a layer of pig fat. This is called ‘barding’, and constantly bastes the faggot as the fat renders out during cooking. It also holds the wet mixture together, rather like a sausage casing. Traditional recipes use pig caul fat, which is the transparent membrane of fat that surrounds the stomach. This lacy fretwork of white veins is a beautiful thing to behold, although it can be maddeningly fragile to work with, so it’s always worth getting a bit more than you need. You should be able to order some from a good butcher, but if you are having difficulty then just substitute with streaky bacon.
Tips & Tricks
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used lard)
- 1/2 onion (65g), peeled and very finely chopped
- 200g mushrooms
- 500g minced pork belly
- 250g lamb or pigs’ liver
- 250g lamb or pigs’ heart
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground mace
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 200g caul fat (if you can’t get hold of caul, use 12 streaky bacon rashers)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/355°F.
- Saute the onion. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for about 4 minutes, until translucent but not brown. Turn off the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Prepare the mushrooms. Wipe the mushrooms with a sheet of damp kitchen towel to remove any soil. Put in the small bowl of a food processor, and blitz to a breadcrumb-like consistency (if you do not have a food processor then very finely chop). Scrape out into a large mixing bowl.
- Puree the offal. Roughly chop the liver and heart and place in the same food processor bowl. Blitz until smooth, then scrape out into the mixing bowl.
- Make the faggot parcels. Add the remaining faggot ingredients into the mixing bowl, except for the caul fat (pork belly mince, sage, mace, salt and pepper). Mix well using a wooden spoon until fully blended. The mixture will be fairly sloppy, but will firm up during cooking.
- Divide the mixture into 8 equal-sized balls.
- if using caul: on a chopping board, gently open out the caul so that it is a single layer thick. You should see a transparent membrane surrounded by a lacy fretwork of white veins. Place a ball in the centre of the caul, then cut around it so that there is enough to wrap around the faggot with overlap. Wrap each faggot in caul.
- if you are using bacon: stretch the bacon with the back of a large knife. Wrap each ball in two overlapping rashers of bacon, one running lengthways and one running widthways (you may need to secure with skewers).
Place the faggots seam-side down on a metal baking tray.
- Cook the faggots. Transfer the faggots to the pre-heated oven. Cook for 45 minutes, until a dark brown crust forms. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes, covered by a double layer of tin foil.
- Serve the faggots hot or cold, with a dollop of Dijon mustard on the side.