Tuesday, 4 January 2011

F is for... faggots, frites and french beans

I wanted to make faggots, but with one sister off pork products and two young nephews (children shouldn't eat offal these days, apparently), I made an alternative dish of faux-faggots too. Faggots are an old British classic made with cheap meat cuts and offal. Some of my family were reticent about trying them, but most gamely tucked in and enjoyed them. Traditionally the faggots should be wrapped in caul fat before cooking, but I couldn't get my hands on any, so did without.  Faux-faggots were simply beef meatballs with traditional faggot seasoning - not especially exciting, but I didn't want my alternative F veering too far off course.


Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 C Fan)

Half a pound/ 250g of fresh pig's or lamb's liver
1 fresh pig's heart, cut in half and rinsed
Half a pound/ 250g bacon
4 oz/ 100 g pork belly
4 oz/ 100 g breadcrumbs
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp mace
1 tsp all spice
A large bunch of mixed fresh herbs - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Salt and pepper

These taste best when rustic and coarsely chopped but, if like me, you're short of time, you can simply bung everything in the food processor and pulse. Shape the mixture into large balls (if you have over blitzed your mixture in the food processor, you can use two serving spoons to make quenelles of the forcemeat) and slightly flatten. Leave in the fridge for 15 minutes so that they're more likely to hold their shape and, in batches, fry the faggots in hot oil until browned on each side and transfer them on to a baking tray and place in your preheated oven for around 45 minutes.

Faux faggots

Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 C Fan)

350 g of lean beef mince
25 g bread crumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp mace
1 tsp all spice
A couple of splashed of tabasco
A bunch of mixed fresh herbs - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten

Simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and form into large meatballs. Pop the meatballs in the fridge for at least 15 minutes and then fry in hot oil until brown and transfer to a baking tray and pop in the oven for around 45 minutes.

In the meantime, you can get on with making your onion gravy and frites. I made two lots of onion gravy - one with butter and one without, but you probably won't need to bother.

Onion gravy

3 large onions, peeled and finely sliced into half moons
Olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp English mustard powder
2 pints of fresh beef stock
A generous knob of butter
Salt and pepper

Sweat the onions in the oil until translucent - this will take around ten minutes. Add the garlic and leave to simmer for a few minutes before turning the heat up slightly and allowing the onions to brown, but not burn. Sprinkle over the sugar to help the onions to caramelise, then add the vinegar. When the vinegar has boiled off the onions, stir in the mustard and stock. Leave to simmer until reduced by half and the gravy has thickened. Season to taste, stir in the butter so the gravy is silky and glossy and pour over your faggots or faux-faggots before serving.

Simply peel 2lb of good chipping potatoes - Maris Pipers or King Edwards are both good bets - and slice them into matchstick thin pieces. Leave the julienned potatoes to soak in cold water to rinse the starch off. If you own a deep fat fryer, now's the time to dig it out. Otherwise, heat a large saucepan's worth of sunflower or vegetable oil about halfway up. Keep an eye on it and keep a damp tea towel to hand, just in case, but it should be hot enough so that if you throw in a breadcrumb it will immediately sizzle and turn brown.

Dry your frites off thoroughly before deep frying in batches. Use a chip basket if you have one, otherwise a slotted spoon will just about do. Don't overcrowd the pan or the temperature of the oil will fall suddenly and you won't get crispy frites. Fry for about ten minutes, lift them out of the oil, give them a shake and leave to rest for a few minutes before returning them to the oil until they are golden brown and crisp. Drain the frites on kitchen paper and sprinkle generously with salt before serving.

French beans

Simply wash the beans, top and tail them and place them in a steamer with a sprinkling of salt for 5 - 6 minutes, so that they still have a little bite to them.   

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