Traditional English Faggots. But Now Low Carb!


Nothing evokes more nostalgic memories of childhood than a good faggot. The nation’s firm favourite will always be the unbeatable “Mr Brain’s” [pictured below]; but alas they’re a little carb-heavy for us keto-fans; so I’ve done a paleo-friendly version which was an unmitigated success on every level!

mr brains

Traditionally, faggots are made predominantly with pork. But I split these 50/50 pork and beef mince, to add succulence and richness. Where breadcrumbs and rusk normally form the binding; ground almonds, flaxseed and coconut-flour do the job every bit as well; making these sufficiently low in carbohydrate for diabetics, paleo-followers and those on a ketogenic plan.

Some people can be a little be wary of things like liver. Feel free to leave it out; but it really adds to the richness and depth of flavour. So up to you; but I firmly recommend it!

Into a large mixing bowl, add 500g of pork mince and 500g of beef mince. This quantity will make enough for 4 people, so halve the mixture if you’re feeding fewer than that. Pour in one cup of ground almonds, 2/3 of a cup of millet/flaxseed, then half a cup of coconut flour. In a food-processor, pulse a large onion, and add to the bowl; then two pork-livers until you get a semi-smooth liquid, which would happily pride the set of a Nightmare on Elmstreet [I’m showing my age here]. With a spatula, ease this into the mix; then sprinkle in a tablespoon of dried sage, another of dried oregano, than a generous grind of salt and pepper. Now beat one large egg, and add to the rest.

To form the meatballs, I tend to don a pair of disposable kitchen-gloves. If you’re feeling sustainable however, or quite simply have a thing for squishy meat-mixtures between your fingers; then go au naturel! Mix the ingredient thoroughly, until well combined; then shape into roughly the size of a hockey ball [think halfway between a tennis-ball and a croquet-ball], placing onto a large plate as you go.

In a solid sauté pan, heat a glug of sunflower or rapeseed oil [something with a high burning point, so your kitchen doesn’t fill with smoke], then add the faggots to the pan a couple at a time, sealing each one on a minimum of 2 to 3 sides. The whole thing doesn’t have to be browned, but they need to maintain their shape; hence the minimum. Once cooked, transfer the meatballs to a large deep-sided baking-tray; then into the oven they go for half an hour to 40 minutes, whilst you get on with the sauce.

In the same pan that you sautéed the faggots, lightly cook a large sliced onion and a red pepper or two. You can add any vegetables you like, such as mushrooms; I tend to use what I have knocking around or needs using up. Then crush in 3 cloves of garlic and deglaze the pan with a generous glug of red wine.

Crumble in a couple of beef stock-cubes, followed by two cans of chopped tinned tomatoes. Round off the taste with seasoning and a teaspoon each of the same herbs as above. Simmer for half an hour until the sauce is thick and glossy.

Once the sauce is ready, take the faggots out of the oven, and spoon over the sauce, topping each one nicely. Then grate a good whack of cheese, and sprinkle atop the lot, with flagrant disregard for traditional [miserable] low-fat dieters. Back into the oven they go for 20 minutes, until the cheese is unctuously melting and just starting to turn golden brown.

Serve the faggots and sauce with the vegetable of your choice. Celeriac mash would go down a treat; but we opted for simple buttered peas. You can’t beat a classic!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!



Mouthwatering Vietnamese meatballs – a delicious low-carb bowl of delight!

Vietnamese MeatballsAll things considered; this recipe is a winner on every level! I’m admittedly not good at oriental cuisine. My comfort zone is far more the long slow-cooked dishes of the classic European repertoire; which languish leisurely in the oven, whilst the cook enjoys the odd glass of wine or two…

So I was really pleased with the results of this one. It was surprisingly quick and fuss free. I also tend to think that oriental cuisine requires a thousand and one exotic ingredients, which I fear I’ll have to go to specialist shops for; but beyond fish sauce; this one is store-cupboard delight!

As with all dishes on this blog, the aim is low carb. Emphasis on the low. Traditionally this recipe would be cooked with noodles. Feel free to use any of the low carb noodle brands if you wish [konjac base – these are practically carbohydrate free and are a real larder staple]; but here I simply piled in the green vegetables to give it a real fresh and natural feel. The ‘naturalness’ is heightened by the use of xylitol sweetener. You could use a synthetic powdered sweetener in its place; but I prefer to keep things pure and clean; that’s the joy of home-cooking… control over what you’re eating…!

Because of the low carb levels, this dish is perfect for diabetics, people on a ketogenic or paleo diet; or just simply for those who wish to beat the bloat of flour, gluten and all that goes with them! Whatever your preference, I thoroughly recommend you give this a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Start by peeling a piece of ginger the size and a half of your thumb. You have a number of options now – grate, finely chop on a board; or use the high tech solution of a mini food-chopper. I opted for this as it’s a weeknight and I’m feeling the need for a labour-saver! Finely blitz the ginger and place in a large pan. Then chop a good whack of chilli. This very much depends on how hot you like things. I used about 15 finger chillies. But adjust to your own taste. Place half of this into the pan with the ginger, and the other half into a large mixing bowl.

Into the pan, measure out a tablespoon of fish sauce, then a generous teaspoon of xylitol or other sweetener. Grind in black pepper, then pour on a litre and a half of hot chicken stock. I boiled the kettle and dissolved in stock-cubes. Bring the mix to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and let things lazily bubble away for 15 minutes or so, whilst you prepare the meatballs.

Into the same food-processor, finely chop 3 cloves of garlic and a handful of coriander [I use the stalks, then save the leaves for that all important final flourish]. Add this to the bowl with the chilli, then pour in another tablespoon of fish sauce. Massage in 500g of minced pork, and give the whole thing a good mix. Once well and truly incorporated, form into balls, somewhere between a gold ball and a cherry tomato.

By now, your stock-base should be beautifully rich and aromatic. Plop the meatballs into the mix, and simmer for around 5 minutes whilst you prepare the vegetables. I also added whole baby button mushrooms at this point, but that was simply because they needed using up. So add or omit to your preference.

Shred a Chinese leaf cabbage into thin slices. Picture coleslaw for size. [If you have chickens, save them the stalk – they LOVE IT!]. Add the cabbage to the pan, followed by a couple of handfuls of beansprouts. You can add mangetout if you fancy; spinach, or any other low carb green vegetable. If you’re feeling extravagant, throw in some prawns or mussels for pizzazz. If using noodles, add these now.

Place a lid on the pan and simmer for circa 5 minutes until the vegetables have cooked to preference. Just prior to serving, stir in a generous handful of coriander, and ladle out into deep, comfort-foody bowls. Garnish with a final dash of coriander, then slurp up to your heart’s content; rewarded for your hard work and expertise…!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!