THIS IS WEEK 11 OF FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD. RECIPE IS AT THE END AS ALWAYS, ENJOY.
After a couple of re-visits to the 1960’s, by 1970 we had said goodbye to the Treorchy Hotel and we were set for our new adventure. It was a bit of relief because it was the start of something very different. As it happened my mum had become ill and was finding it difficult to manage the Hotel, so they needed to re-think the future.
As they had now been their own boss for 7.5 years I think they felt that they needed to stay in business for themselves. As a result they decided to buy a shop but what should have been a simple procedure turned into a nightmare because the house that was part of the shop had a tenant in it who wouldn’t move out? Ironically she ended up moving into the house my parents did up while they were waiting for her to move out.
So my parents bought another house which they decided to do up and live in, there wasn’t much room for me so I ended up living with my nan and grandad and I absolutely loved it.
We did a lot of cooking which meant that I was in my element, so I was always learning a lot of new things. Her kitchen was actually a lean to in the house and we used to do mounds of pickle onions in old sweet jars and piccalilli, chutneys tarts, cakes and faggots. The best thing was my nan’s sense of humor which was very wicked. She loved clothes so most weeks we would catch a train to Pontypridd and go to the market. As I also liked to sew we would look at the material stalls and my nans response to the price would always make me laugh.
First of all I used to think she said “it’s too dear” but she actually used to say “oh tit it’s too dear.” Imagine Katherine Tate as Granny behaving badly but in Gavin and Stacey! It made me love her even more and she had a lot of other sayings that were a little too close to the mark!
When we made the faggots my nan would get the ingredients from the slaughter house in Treorchy and I would have the job of mincing the meat! Not a posh blender or a Kenwood food processor for us (not looking for sponsorship, hint hint) no we did it the old fashioned way with a hand mincer attached to the kitchen table and a lot of work turning the handle!
As you can imagine she couldn’t just make a couple of faggots, it would be on an industrial scale to give to family and friends. Consequently my arm would be aching by the end but the finished product was worth it. It was also the start of my fitness journey apparently.
When I think back to how small the kitchen was and how basic the equipment was it was amazing to think what she could produce. To this day I cannot match her bread and pastry – she never weighed anything and it would always turn out perfect. I can still taste her blackberry tart but my absolute favourite was her winberry tart. I would go with some friends up to fairy glen and pick them. Happy times.
So today the recipe is faggots. This is the nearest I could get to my nans recipe as she used to use the lites which you cannot now for health and safety reasons. Oh how the times have changed, eh.
[ Makes 12 faggots ]
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
12 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground mace
2 teaspoons black pepper
500g pork belly minced
100g bacon minced
150g pork or lamb’s liver, finely but roughly chopped
1 level tablespoon flaked sea salt
(½ tablespoon if using fine salt)
100g coarse white breadcrumbs,
made from stale bread
1 large bramley apple minced
200g beef caul
For the gravy:
2 large onions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon soft dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
1½ level tablespoons plain flour
500ml good dark beef stock, or a can of consommé mixed with water
flaked sea salt and black pepper
Cooked frozen peas
Melt 30g of the butter in a frying pan and in it sweat the onion with the thyme, sage and spices over a medium–low heat for about 15 minutes, or until very soft. Add the mixture to the meats and salt in a big bowl, and mix all together well, then add the breadcrumbs and apple. Get your hands in there and squish the mixture through them until it is really well combined. Take a little of the raw mixture and fry it to see how it tastes; correct the seasoning accordingly.
Tenderly open up the caul and hold it up to the light to see where any holes might be (to avoid when assembling the faggots), then spread it out on the work surface. Take an open fistful of the mixture and place it on the caul so that you can cut a sheet around it to the size of two-thirds of a piece of A5 paper. Fold the caul over the top of the meats as if you were wrapping up treasured possessions in a handkerchief. All the corners should overlap and the meats be tightly surrounded. Turn the faggot over. Repeat until all are done.
Heat some more butter in a frying pan over a medium–high heat and put the faggots in, fold-side down. Briskly fry until brown, taking care not to burn them. Turn over and gently fry on the other side. They should not open, but if they do, place a plate over the top of the batch to secure the folds. Repeat until all are good and brown. Transfer them to a board.
In the same frying pan, fry the onions in the leftover faggot fat over a medium–low heat for 30 minutes or so until richly coloured. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160C fan/180°C/Gas 4. Add the brown sugar and malt vinegar to the frying pan and cook until the vinegar has evaporated completely. Then sprinkle in the flour and cook gently, stirring, for a further minute or so. The flour must not burn. Start adding the beef stock or canned consommé, bit by bit, stirring constantly. Taste for seasoning, remembering that the faggots are highly seasoned.
Place the faggots in a good-sized, shallow casserole and cover with the gravy, then the lid. Bake gently for 1½ hours. For the last 20 minutes, remove the lid.
Serve with some creamy mash potato and peas.