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Traditional Northampton Baked 'Taters'

Discussion in 'Northamptonshire' started by Bob Spiers, Oct 10, 2013.

  1. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    One of my favourite memories of Northampton is a traditional meat dish called (in the vernacular) ‘Baked Taters’. Ignore the name as it will not give inkling to the dish’s make-up. Yes the dish included Potatoes but they were to add bulk to the varied meat content and the name derived from the fact the Potatoes sort of crisped up (a bit like roast potatoes) in the oven baking process.

    I learned from older members of my wife’s family, including her mother who prepared the dish for Sunday lunch at least once a month, of its origins. It was being prepared at the beginning of the 20th Century and became popular during a time of poverty because it relied on the cheapest cuts of meat (Belly Pork, Faggots & (Ox heart or Liver), plus potatoes) and then taken to the local Bakehouse where they would pay a few pence to have it oven baked. This was only done on a Sunday when the Baker could accommodate and profit from the many families who availed themselves of the service.

    In practice the housewife would prepare the contents in an oven proof dish which would be taken by the husband, usually on his way to the Pub or Working Mens Club. (Or perhaps when going to Church; although I think the former to be nearer the truth). Either way he would call at the Bakehouse and pick up the dish suitably protected by a towel or similar as it would be piping hot.

    It is really a winter dish and households often alternate with stews and casseroles. My wife makes it to this day and is a firm favourite of mine during the winter months. She provided me with this rough ingredient and cooking methodology list (not really a recipe but close).

    Ingredients; 4 Faggots (frozen are OK), 3 or 4 Pork Belly Slices with rind, 3 or 4 Pork Liver slices (this replaces the old traditional Ox heart which can still be used if preferred). 1 Medium Onion plus ½ teaspoon of Gravy salt, white pepper and dried sage, plus a tablespoon of plain flour. Not forgetting 3 large or 4 medium potatoes peeled and cut into halves; and Water.

    Methodology: Take a medium to large Baking Tin (depending on family size) and place the faggots in the centre (frozen preferably but not essential). Place pork slices around (rind up). Slice the onion and sprinkle over and insert the halved potatoes. [*Note the Liver is not added at this point*]. Sprinkle evenly the Gravy Salt, White Pepper, plain flour and dried sage then fill the tin ¾ of the way up.

    Place in a hot oven (200c/Gas Mark 6) for one hour then turn down to 170c/Gas mark 3 for a further 2 to 3 hours (arbitrary depending on oven but test to see pork slices are cooked and potatoes are nicely roasted). TWENTY MINUTES BEFORE THE END add the liver pressing down into the gravy now formed. The dish is traditionally served with baked beans either warmed as a side dish or added into the dish about 5 minutes before the end.

    It is really the combination of broken down meat flavours that make the dish. You can also do a Jack Sprat sort of thing, for instance my wife adores the crisp pork slices; I love the liver and faggots so the dish is divided accordingly. I’ve never had a meal that goes so well with baked beans. Take my word this traditional Northampton dish is out of this world. Why else would I plead with my wife to make it the moment autumn is upon us? Strangely enough almost always on a Sunday although there is no earthly reason why it couldn’t be cooked any day of the week.
     
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  2. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    Have you got any photographs of it?
     
  3. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    No sorry and as we had the dish only last Sunday -which prompted the Discussion piece - it may be a little while before it is prepared again. Its not what you would call an attractive looking dish, predominantly brown when baked as you might imagine, but certainly a case where looks aren't everything. I will try to take a before and after photo and post within the Discussion at some future time.

    Update on the dish: My wife (who read the piece) said it was usually the task of the eldest son or daughter to take the dish to the Bakers early morning, minus the water which was usually provided at the Bakery -or they took a jug separately. The Dad picked it up on the way back from, you know where. She also reminded some in Northampton would put a short crust pastry around the tin before adding contents. This acted to soak up the gravy made in cooking and give extra body to the meal.
     
  4. emjay

    emjay LostCousins Member

    Please don't post the 'after' :(
     
  5. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    No stomach for it hey? If it wasn't predominantly a Pig related dish I would say you were chickening out:D
     
  6. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Well it finally became time for a repeat of one of my favourite meals the badly named (but wonderful tasting) Northampton Baked Taters. Here are the photos promised, the before and -despite Tim's comment about not posting the 'after' -the almost cooked dish. I say 'almost cooked' because the Pigs liver is added only about 15 minutes or so from the end of the cooking process. (The second photo will not show the Liver as that is (literally) hidden within the dish).

    I think I can only post one photo at a time so will show the second one separately.

    Photo 1. Is literally the dish ready for the oven comprises potatoes, onion, pork slices and faggots (added frozen) plus gravy browning and gravy salt (essential part of the dish) plus white pepper and dried sage sprinkled over. The dish (before liver is added) needs a minimum of two hours cooking in a medium oven. An ideal dish to put in the oven whilst out shopping. If cooking longer than 2--2 1/2 hours use a slow oven temperature. The liver must be added 15 minutes before the end. Served usually with baked beans which can be added to the pan if required 5 minutes before the end.
     

    Attached Files:

  7. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    2nd photo as promised
     

    Attached Files:

  8. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Megastar

    Bob, you didn't say when the condiment is added, or is that administered separately?
     
  9. Margery

    Margery LostCousins Member

    Frozen faggots? What would the Australian equivalent be, please?
     
  10. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks Bob, but it wasn't me who said don't post the after picture.
     
  11. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    I'm not sure what the Australian equivalent is, but this is what a Faggot is.
     
  12. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Sorry Tim, my apologies
     
  13. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    Not a problem :)
     
  14. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Yes Tim's correctly links to the British Faggot and the description belies the taste but I would say that as a Brummie (born in Birmingham). I have very fond memories of accompanying my Gran into town (known as the Bull Ring) on a Saturday to help carry her shopping. My treat was to be taken into a Faggot & Peas Restaurant (dedicated to just that dish). It was so popular you often had to join a queue to be served and then await a spare table. (Memories!!).

    Nowadays as well as the many Butchers' who make and sell their own faggots, there is one famous West Country manufacturer whose product can be found in the frozen food aisle of any supermarket. They are sold as 2,4,or 6 individual faggots in foil trays which can be cooked (from frozen) in the oven. In the dish my wife uses 4 faggots which she places in the middle of the dish (see photo). They, like the Pork slices (bone in), break down to flavour the dish combined with the onion & seasoning.

    Incidentally spoke to my sister in Australia (Victoria) this morning on Skype and she agrees faggots are not available in Oz which is strange considering the number of Brits who emigrated out there. She tells me she has had a go at making her own and knows how to buy the right pigs offal and meat (& caul to wrap them in). However she claims they are nothing like the ones she remembers as a girl. I have promised to see if any Brummie cousins or Aunts have a recipe, although I suspect, like us, they buy the ready made as they are delicious.
     
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  15. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    In a Google search, there were some forum discussions about Faggots in Australia, either about sourcing the ingredients from a local butcher or that there were Ex-Pat shops that were worth a try.
     
  16. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    After inserting the main ingredients, onion, potatoes, pork slices (preferably with bone in) & faggots, you sprinkle in gravy browning (Bisto or similar) then Gravy Salt (proprietary caramelised product -similar to Oxo but sold as Gravy Salt- crumbled into the dish). As the name suggests this adds salt as well as imparting flavour and colour, so no need to add extra salt.Then sprinkle with a little flour (to thicken the gravy as it cooks), White Pepper and dried Sage (all to own taste). You then fill the dish with plain water and place into the oven once it is up to temperature.

    Incidentally my wife tells me she sets the oven a little higher for the first half hour (say 180/190degC) and then after that down to about 150/175degC for the main cooking time of 2 hours or longer as it is a dish that can stand longer cooking times, subject to checking the potatoes are not over done. They should be light/moderate roasted. Always remember to add the pork liver pieces 15 minutes or so before the end. The dish will be piping hot so best left to stand for a few minutes before serving onto plates. (We serve with Baked beans (the proprietary sort) done separately but they can be added to the dish about 5 minutes before the end).

    There is no recipe as such as it is a 'handed down' sort of thing, each family making it slightly different. I can only tell of the one my wife makes. Remember we are speaking of a traditional dish (see my original posting) that has been in existence in Northampton and area for over 100 years.
     
  17. emjay

    emjay LostCousins Member

    Tim and Bob - I was/am the culprit re. 'after comment'. I was meaning 'after' as in eaten.:(
     
  18. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Megastar

    I am very sorry Bob to have misled you.
    My comment about the condiment was refering to the container behind the dish in the photo.
    It looks like my sort of kitchen although my preference would be for 'sea salt' from Alexander's neck of the woods.
     
  19. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    Lol. Yes def not after been eaten!
     
  20. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    No No NO!

    Anglesey Sea Salt or Halen Môn

    Their vanilla sea salt is amazing.

    Get some corn on the corn on the cobs, butter them all over, grind some vanilla sea salt all over the butter, wrap them in foil and twist the ends, put them on the barbie, turn a quarter rotation every few minutes, until cooked.

    They are amazing. You won't be disappointed in my recipe.
     
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