Friday, 10 February 2012

Faggots Sir Benfro (Pembrokeshire Faggots)

I love faggots, I grew up on them.  These are what you’d call proper traditional Welsh fare.  My mother and both grandmothers used to make them, although the making of them wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed as a child – being not dissimilar to a bloodbath (!); the results were always enjoyable!   For the uninitiated, faggots are similar to meatballs.  Big meatballs, made with liver instead of beef. 

My father tells me that when he was a young man going to rugby matches, this was what he used to have from the market stalls; the ones from Neath market being the best!   

Traditionally these are always served with mushy peas and lots of gravy.  You can buy canned mushy peas, which are convenient; but I much prefer them made from soaked dried peas.   

The recipe I have given you below is the one my mother always used, and the one  I have always used!  I like it with the strong flavour of ox liver, but if you prefer to start off with something milder use pig liver – that’s what my mother uses, I just prefer ox liver! 

  • 3lb liver
  • 2 large onions
  • Approximately ½ large sliced loaf of bread (you may or may not need more depending on consistency so have a whole loaf at the ready!)
  • 4-6oz suet
  • 4tsp dried sage
  • 2tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste
You will also need a food processor! 

Begin by making the breadcrumbs in the food processor, and start with half a loaf of bread.  Tip these into a large mixing bowl. 

Then peel and cut the onions into quarters and finely chop in the food processor.  Add to the breadcrumbs in the mixing bowl and season with the salt and pepper, add the suet (I use 6 oz) and the sage and mix everything together well. 

Wash the liver and blitz in the food processor, then add to the mixing bowl.  Mix everything together and check the consistency.  If it seems too wet for your tastes, chop up another 2 or 3 slices of bread in the food processor and add that – until you are happy with the consistency.

I’m like Goldilocks with faggots – not too dry, not too wet – just right! 

The traditional way of cooking them is to make them into balls with your hands.  That’s not how I do it!  I tip the whole lot into a roasting tin to cook, cutting into squares once they are cooked and cooled. 

They will want approximately 30 to 40 minutes at 200oC.  Just keep an eye on them after 30 minutes. 

For the benefit of my followers in the US, mushy peas are soaked dried peas, cooked until they become very soft and collapse.   The gravy is the brown beef gravy made from meat juices – or, as is often the case in my house, instant gravy!  If you can’t get instant gravy, some rich beef stock would do – you just want something to moisten the faggots and bring the whole dish together. 

These freeze beautifully and re-heat happily in the microwave too.  How convenient is that! 

The ones pictured on the right, were re-heated in a griddle pan, wrapped in bacon.  Liver and bacon are a delicious combination.

I hope you enjoy this taste of Wales!

I would like to dedicate this recipe to my lovely late Father, who loved a good feed of faggots, peas and gravy.  Gone, but never ever forgotten xxx


  1. Nice! Thank you for sharing this. Sadly, suet is very hard to get here. The only time it's available is around Christmas and even then we have to search hard to find it. Can you suggest a substitute?

  2. It's used as a fat to moisted the faggots. If your butcher has fresh kidneys he should be able to make suet from the fat surrounding them. In the meantime I'll have a look into some alternatives for you and let you know.

  3. Aunt B, there doesn't appear to be a real alternative to suet. However, I have seen several recommendations for frozen grated butter or shortening. If beef lard is available where you live I would use that (if using ox liver) instead of butter or shortening. I don't know if it will bind the faggots in quite the same way as suet though. Good luck!