British Bites: Faggots (Liver, Kidney, and Pork Meatballs)

British Bites

Classic British dishes updated for the modern American cook.


[Photograph: Sydney Oland]

A mixture of organ meat and ground pork, wrapped in fat then roasted until just cooked through. These savory meatballs are delicious and relatively easy to make. As for the name, it comes from the way they resemble the wrapped look of old-time bundles of wood with the same name. Don't let the title throw you off; even offal beginners will delight in the fatty savory little packages.

If you've never worked with kidney or liver, don't be intimidated. Pork liver is simple to chop up, and most stores sell it cleaned. Kidney, on the other hand, takes a little bit of practice and knowledge—simply remove all the fat as well as the tough knobs in the center of each bit of kidney, then cut into small pieces. Once you've got the kidney in your hands, it will become pretty evident which bits are the ones you want. Just remain calm and take your time.


Caul fat is another ingredient that might be a first for some of you; it is the fat that surrounds the organs of many different animals, but the caul fat you most commonly find is either pork or beef. Most good butchers will be able to get it for you, and once you get it in your kitchen, you'll be itching to wrap all your other favorite ingredients in it. It cooks to a thin crisp little wrapper that is totally delicious. Be careful when you unroll it; it can be delicate. If you can't, or just don't want to go to the trouble of finding caul fat, bacon makes a perfectly good wrapper, and even adds a bit of salty smokiness that is a nice offset to the organ meats.

I recommend serving this traditional recipe the way you find it at rural pubs in England, with bitter ale, mashed potatoes, onion gravy, and buttered peas. And if you're going to the trouble of wrapping up some faggots, make sure you have a thick rice pudding topped with brandy-soaked raisins to serve as dessert.