Remembering un temps-passé

Ian Leatt

I love the outdoors, don’t you? The smell of the air when it rains, the coolness of a breeze on a hot sunny day. The warmth of the sun on your flesh when you lie down and let the world go by. How amazing it is, this world of ours.

The freshly arrived colours of spring are enchanting, while the sun’s glare in summer captures us in its own unyielding light. Now we are moving into another vibrant time, when the trees and shrubs close ranks to offer a cascade of earthy colours, and we cheerily look on as the changed colour patterns gradually settle into the landscape around us.

It always draws my mind to bygone days. To a time when I was young and the world around me was forever new and spilling over with surprises. It is in that spirit that I relive my experience of stepping into my grandmother’s home and being slapped in the face by an aroma that was at once fresh and engaging and enticingly familiar. “Wow! What is that, Gran?” I asked. I wasn’t expecting the answer that came back: “Faggots”.

Faggots? Yep! These are the United Kingdom’s version of meatballs. They’ve been around since the mid-1840s. Yes, they are an acquired taste, but – trust me – truly AMAZING.

Ready to try them? Here is what you will need:

The meatballs
1 kilo ground pork
¼ kilo pig’s liver, finely chopped
½ kilo of bacon, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 large onion, finely chopped
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

The sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
6 cups beef stock
1 ½ cups red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

As with many dishes, it’s often the sauce that makes the dish, and that’s where we will start with our faggots. Melt the butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Place the large onion in the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Then dust the onion with the flour and cook for a further two minutes.

Pour in the beef stock, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook until slightly thick, and then pour into the slow cooker and set the element at medium heat.

Now the meatballs. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Place the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until it is slightly crisp. Add the sage, thyme, the second large onion, and pinches of sea salt and ground pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, then place in a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Once the bacon has cooled down to a handling temperature, add the ground pork, liver, bread crumbs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix gently together until you have a blended mixture.

Using your hands, scoop up some of the mixture to mould small balls. Typically, the balls should weigh around four ounces. Place in the skillet that was used for the bacon. Cook the balls gently at medium heat, turning so they brown all over. Once they are all browned evenly, place in the slow cooker and leave to cook at medium heat for four hours.

To serve at home, we always had fresh garden peas and home-made oven fries. Wow. Awesome.

Ian Leatt is president of Pegasus Publications Inc.

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