The farm my Nan grew up on in Coventry was a happy place, and despite Nanny Little’s dictatorial frugality, my great aunts and uncles lived good lives. The house sat on a small hill overlooking the city, and on clear nights the family would stand at the edge of their allotment and watch the lights of the city in the valley below. lights that vanished from even the clearest evening as the war came to Britain, as the small comforts of home disappeared as rationing took hold.
Even for the most frugal, the rationing of the Second World War hit hard. Our family was lucky, they had a farm, but that didn’t mean unlimited food. They now had to produce food for a starving nation as well as themselves. There were few luxuries, and as the conflict went on my Nan's three-mile walk to school grew more gruelling as hunger and tiredness became the norm. Then in October of 1939, my great-grandfather left to fight, illegally, on the front. He was a farmer, a reserved occupation, and to fight he had to lie about who he was.
Nanny Little said nothing to the children for four days. Up until then, she had said he had gone out to help a neighbouring farm. The first my Nan knew of what had happened was when she stepped into the house after school to a kitchen that smelled strongly of something rare – gravy. My great grandmother was always shady about where she got hold of the offal to make Faggots, the leading theory being through her old friendship with the local butcher. That night the family ate well for the first time in a while, and whilst the pain of loss couldn’t be stated they at least slept more comfortably than they had in over a year.
The Faggot has been a staple of the British table from since around the 1850s and can be found today in chip shops and cafés all over the country. You can buy them from supermarkets, but they are cheap versions of something great. Be brave, go to your butcher and make them from scratch. You won’t regret it.
2lb pig and cow offal – liver, lung, heart
1 onion diced
1lb pork belly
230 g breadcrumbs
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 ½ pint beef stock
Caul fat (optional, can be found on sites like this )
1-pint gravy or beef stock
250 ml red wine
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 1900c/gas 6.
If using Caul fat, soak the fat in cold water to soften.
Mince all meat and offal (butcher may be able to do this for you).
Mix the meat and offal together until well combined.
Add to the meat the breadcrumbs, onion, sage and parsley, mix well and leave to stand for one hour so that the mixture firms up.
Shape the mixture into balls, you should get about nine from the mixture.
If using caul fat, remove from the water and squeeze out any liquid. Wrap each meatball in a layer of caul.
Place these balls into a deep roasting dish.
Fill the dish two-thirds of the way up with your gravy or stock.
Place in the oven for forty minutes until they start to brown.
Once cooked, remove from the oven.
Transfer the remaining stock or gravy into a clean pan. Add the wine and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Recover the cooked faggots with the gravy.
Image © Su-lin original via Flickr / Creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial