“They’re just like a meatball, you know, but way better: with the offal and plenty of fat in there, too, you get this amazing, melting thing that happens.” That’s how Josh Eggleton describes faggots, which he’s been serving at his pub, the Pony & Trap in Chew Magna just outside Bristol, for years.
Traditional butchers still make and sell products made from offal – everything from patés and terrines to haggis and faggots – but these are far less common than they used to be, mostly because tastes have changed, and also because whole animal butchers are increasingly rare. These days, most offal is processed at the abattoir, into reformed meat products and animal feed, or just incinerated.
Lamb faggots (AKA amazing meatballs)
Faggots are traditionally made with pork offal, but it is now very difficult to find; most of it’s removed and disposed of at the abattoir, mainly due to lack of demand. When I worked at River Cottage, we’d butcher an animal every week, usually a lamb, a pig, and sometimes a deer or a quarter of beef. Lamb offal was always my favourite, because it is delicately flavoured and less gamey – perfect for making faggots. This recipe is adapted from Eggleton’s. If your local butcher can’t supply offal, it’s available through several high-welfare box schemes these days, among them Pipers Farm, which sells a great selection of pasture-fed lamb’s offal. And, as with so many foods, creating more demand for offal will help reduce its waste. Faggots are traditionally wrapped in caul fat to hold them together, but streaky bacon works well, too: stretch out and flatten the rashers with the back of a heavy knife, then wrap around the faggots, making sure they are well sealed.
50g onion, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
30ml port (or red wine)
1 lamb heart, trimmed, washed and finely chopped (about 125g trimmed weight)
100g lamb liver, trimmed, washed and finely chopped
125g bacon scraps, finely chopped
200g lamb mince
1 pinch ground coriander
1 pinch ground cumin
2 tbsp rolled oats
1½ tbsp (6g) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stalks
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Caul fat (rinsed) or streaky bacon rashers, for wrapping
Saute the onion and garlic in the oil over a low-medium heat for five minutes, or until softened. Add the port, bring to a boil and reduce to a syrup, then put aside.
Mince the lamb heart, liver and bacon by carefully cross chopping with a large knife (or pulse in a food processor until minced but not pureed). Combine in a bowl with the mince, the onion reduction, coriander, cumin, egg, oats, parsley, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Once everything is well mixed together, divide into six, roll into balls, then wrap and seal in rinsed caul fat or flattened streaky bacon (see introduction).
Cook over a low heat in an ovenproof frying pan for 10 minutes, turning once halfway, or until well browned on both sides, then transfer to a 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 oven for 10 minutes to finish off cooking. Serve with mash, peas and onion gravy.