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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas


Faggots are a popular British tradition. Well at least they are in Central areas of the country. Being Welsh I was brought up on faggots and they never did me any harm. Some people squirm at the mention of faggots especially if they are not partial to offal, but modern faggots tend not to contain the scarier parts of the animal used traditionally. They are not dissimilar in makeup to the traditional Haggis of Scotland.

Faggots are meatballs made from minced off-cuts and offal, especially pork (traditionally pig's heart, liver, and fatty belly meat or bacon) together with herbs for flavouring and sometimes added bread crumbs. It is a traditional dish in the United Kingdom, especially South and Mid Wales and the English Midlands.

Faggots originated as a traditional cheap food consumed by ordinary country people in Western England, particularly west Wiltshire and the West Midlands. Their popularity spread from there, especially to South Wales in the mid-nineteenth century, when many agricultural workers left the land to work in the rapidly expanding industry and mines of that area. Faggots are also known as "ducks" in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Lancashire, often as "savoury ducks". The first use of the term in print was in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of Saturday 3 June 1843, a news report of a gluttonous man who ate twelve of them. (Wikipedia)

I didn't know about the industry and mining link but half of my family originated in the South Wales coalfield so that could explain why they were so familiar to us.

The most popular brand of ready made faggots come frozen by Mr. Brains. As a kid we always presumed there were actually brains in them but no they were just made by Mr. Brains.

The frozen Mr Brain's brand of mass-produced faggot available in the UK, made of liver and onions rolled into meatballs and served in a sauce differ significantly from traditional faggots, which have a coarser texture and contain far less water.

The brain behind Brain's Faggots was one Herbert Hill Brain, born in 1864 in Kingswood, near Bristol, one of six children of a grocer's clerk. He started a grocery business in Temple Street in 1890, and in 1927 began producing hams on a site in Upper York Street. The faggots first appeared in the mid-1930s, the result of an employee suggestion. Brain described his creation as 'savoury ducks', a name which can be traced back to the Middle Ages. They were served in his 'West Country Sauce' - a thick gravy; indeed, the current manufacturer claims to follow the same recipe today, but uses choicer pieces of pork and pork liver in the faggots themselves. The faggots are still produced in a Bristol factory, and in 2002 around 100 million of them were made, frozen, and subsequently consumed.

But this recipe does not contain Mr. Brains faggots as I have now discovered fresh faggots at our local high street butcher.

Faggots began as a traditional peasant's dish from England's West Country. They consisted of pork offal: all the leftover bits and pieces of pig were combined into balls with onions, milk-soaked breadcrumbs and herbs, and wrapped in a sheep's caul - the amnion or membrane enclosing the foetus of an unborn lamb.

Mmmmmm, tasty. Seriously, they are.

I am not making the faggots themselves but here is a generic faggots recipe. in case you are not able to source them from your butcher.

For the Meatballs:

400 g Pork Belly

150 g Pork Shoulder

400 g Pork Liver, Swap out for 200g liver and 200g of heart if you like

250 g Onion

2 Cloves Garlic

1 Tbsb Oil

1 Tsp Dried Thyme

1 Tsp Dried Sage

1 Tsp Celery Salt

1/2 Nutmeg Grated

150 g Breadcrumbs

3 Tbsp Flour

Finely dice the onion and garlic for the meatballs. Heat the oil in a pan and fry off the onion, garlic, sage and thyme and fry on a low-medium heat for 10 minutes to soften but not colour.

Get your butcher to grind the meat and offal for you or do it yourself and mix it together with all of the ingredients apart from the flour and form into 100g balls.

Now, I can't vouch for the recipe above but I wanted to at least give some insight into the contents. To be fair, I have no idea what is in the ones I buy but they are excellent. This is how they look when bought fresh. The white netting covering them is the lamb's caul. This holds them together and keeps them moist. Faggots have to be moist and crumbly not hard and dry.

The key to faggots is the juice. Rich, thick, moist, unctuous, and juicy is what you are aiming for in the gravy. A few years ago I was perusing stock cubes, ready made stock and all the variables to find the best option. In the process I discovered to my horror that stock cubes are mainly salt with miniscule meat content, as low as 4%, which is doubly horrifying when you see how small they are in the first place but when I checked out the Bovril it's main ingredient was beef at 50% it also contains yeast extract at 27% so is pretty good stuff. There is so little meat in the average stock cube they could probably market them as vegetarian. For good measure I splash some Worcestershire Sauce in the mix and a slug of soy sauce, very much not traditional. I also like sage in abundance.

Bovril is the trademarked name of a thick and salty meat extract paste similar to a yeast extract, developed in the 1870s by John Lawson Johnston. It is sold in a distinctive bulbous jar, and as cubes and granules. The first part of the product's name comes from Latin bovīnus, meaning "ox". Johnston took the -vril suffix from Edward Bulwer-Lytton's then-popular novel, The Coming Race (1870), the plot of which revolves around a superior race of people, the Vril-ya, who derive their powers from an electromagnetic substance named "Vril". Therefore, Bovril indicates great strength obtained from an ox.

The internet being as woke as it is these days you start to get used to very annoying search results like that for Bovril whose first suggestion is a 2004 article from The Guardian, where else, about Bovril now being made meat free. It is actually called ox and is 50% ox but it had to go in the woke onslaught.

The Vegetarian Society said it was "simply delighted" to have won over a product that was once so closely identified with meat that it was known in the US as "liquid cow".

There you have it in black and white, the culture war. It is the nature of the woke virus that it is primarily focussed on destroying success rather than creatively coming up with something new.

Sadly for the vegetarians this decision was soon reversed and beef reintroduced. Hurraaaah! Round one to Meatetarians.

In 1870, in the Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon III ordered one million cans of beef to feed his troops. The task of providing this went to John Lawson Johnston, a Scottish butcher living in Canada. Large quantities of beef were available across the British Dominions and South America, but transport and storage were problematic. Therefore, Johnston created a product known as 'Johnston's Fluid Beef', later called Bovril, to meet Napoleon's needs. By 1888, over 3,000 UK public houses, grocers and dispensing chemists were selling Bovril. In 1889, Bovril Ltd was formed to develop Johnston's business further. (Wikipedia)

Marketing was a new concept back then so names like 'Johnston's Fluid Beef' were quite common. Presumably the first focus groups led to brand names like Bovril instead.

Traditionally they are served with mashed potato and mushy peas, but as I only had new potatoes and no dried peas in stock, I made do with crushed new potatoes. This of course is sacrilege.

First, slice and fry your onions and you can brown them as the caramelisation adds to the flavour and colour of the gravy. I also like diced carrots.

Half way through I was worried that if any vegetarians should turn up I would be in trouble, so for good measure I added a teaspoon of Vecon. I love this from my vegetarian days decades ago when I mainly had it as a hot drink. The flavour still takes me back to damp walls, mould and freezing breath in bed at night. Such was the lifestyle of students back then before they became oppressed. A teaspoon of Vecon in some hot water was a veritable treat.

Strangely if you Google Vecon it doesn't give as a first option the news that meat lovers have insisted on it now being made with beef. Maybe because eating beef is not an ideology.

No, you just get a website called The Vegan Kind. I'm not sure if that means Vegans associate and identify with Kindness or that they are Kind like a race, sort of Vegankind. If you buy it for £3.45 you get 3 Kind points. I'm not sure what you do with Kind points, maybe if you are Kind enough and buy all their other products you become Kind and get a Kind badge, which will let people know how Kind you are.

Apparently it also solves the problem of eating an unnatural animal free diet by giving you the missing vitamins which have been added. So if you are Vegan then it probably saves your life. Hydrolysed vegetable (soya and maize), protein, water, dehydrated vegetable powder (onion, celery, tomato, parsley, spinach, garlic) yeast extract, red pepper extract 1%, carrot extract 1%, kelp, ferrous sulphate, vitamin C, niacin, beta carotene ground black pepper, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B12.

I am thinking of changing the Vecon recipe to remove all the vegetables and replace them with beef, I'm sure The Guardian would approve and the Vegetarian Society would burst a blood vessel.

Fry off the carrots too, add your sage and the faggots and allow the faggots to brown top and bottom. Faggots need a good browning on the bottom, don't forget that.

Add the sundry brown sauces and pastes and.....

Pour in some boiling water half way up their middles. Faggots in a warm bath of savoury loveliness, are hard to beat.

I then cover with loose foil so the water can reduce and place in the oven on a low heat for about one and a half hours. Then remove the foil and place back in the oven for the final half hour uncovered, check the pan is not too dry before putting them back. This gives you a crispy top to your faggot. It's a judgement call but you should be left with some offaly good meat balls in a rich savoury, thick, sauce that you should not need to thicken with anything else.

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5 комментариев

Неизвестный пользователь
17 февр. 2022 г.

I came acros this post while reading another post ( been missing your posts) and the first thing that popped in my head was "Kaleh Pache" and Iranian "delicacy" (if you want to call it that) the most greasiest concoction I can remember eating, but it was a favorite of those around me. I did a quick google search thinking there is no way I will find it ( mind you I used the same words as mentioned above) and low and behold, up popped several recipes. I picked the following only because of photo #3, says it all 😊

Неизвестный пользователь
17 февр. 2022 г.
Ответ пользователю

Thruth be I married a meat and potatoes guy and through the years I have been able to change some of his eating habits and taste buds. While I experiments are still within "the boundaries".


John Durham
John Durham
06 февр. 2022 г.

Sounds tasty and looks well prepared - a shame it's pretty much things (except the veg and Worcestershire) that I presently can't tolerate. But good for you!

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
07 февр. 2022 г.
Ответ пользователю

That's a shame. Me tormenting you like that.😥

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