Lancashire hotpot is a casserole dish originating in Lancashire county on the west coast of England.
It consists of layers of meat and root vegetables, topped with a layer of potato slices, slow cooked in an oven, in a covered pot. While not exactly picturesque when served, the flavours are intense and rich.
Recipes call for just basic seasoning such as salt, pepper, and onion.
The root veg can be carrot, turnip, leeks, potatoes, etc.
Opinions are divided on what meat is authentic. A few say beef; more seem to say lamb, or lamb with lamb kidney. Using lamb neck chops is now quite common, as it makes it easy to see that you’re allocating enough meat for everyone. Chopped lamb shoulder is also common, too. In any event, you want meat from a tougher part of the lamb that stands up to the low, slow cooking.
The vegetable ingredients are peeled and sliced, and while this is happening, you brown your pieces of meat.
Then you layer the ingredients, starting with potato, in a deep heavy, thick and straight-sided casserole dish.
Some recipes call for the addition of a liquid such as a stock, or water if you can’t manage any stock; others don’t call for any added liquid.
Then you put the lid on the pot, and place it in a slow oven for several hours. The lid is removed for final hour of cooking to allow juices to thicken, and to brown the top layer of potatoes.
Lancashire Hotpot is often served as pub grub, or brought to pot lucks. It is frequently accompanied by pickled red cabbage or pickled beetroot on the side.
Modern pub variants may put beef in it, and top it with a pastry crust, but while old-timers may happily eat this, they wouldn’t say they were having hotpot.
Quantities in a Lancashire Hotpot don’t have to be exact:
- enough lamb for everyone
- potatoes — double or a bit more of the amount of lamb
- onions — about ⅓ the amount of potatoes
In spring 2011, a loose campaign started forming to propose that the dish be awarded European “Protected Geographical Indication” status. This would mean that commercially the dish could only be prepared for sale in Lancashire, and according to certain methods. The campaign appears to have been launched by people such as Steve Dean, managing director of Lancashire County Developments Limited (LCDL) , chef Nigel Haworth, and Paul Nuttall, European MEP for Lancashire.
3 pounds (1.3 kg) potatoes
1 pound (450g) onion
1 pound (450 g) lamb
1 cup / 8 oz / 250 ml stock or water
salt and pepper
few tablespoons of butter
Brown the meat in a frying pan; set aside.
Peel the onions and potatoes, and slice them up.
Start oven heating to 350 F / 180 C.
Make layers of the potatoes and onions, starting with potato, and reserving enough potato for a final potato layer on the top. When you’ve come to the top, put the meat on top, then cover it all with those reserved potato slices.
Melt the butter; brush it on the top potatoes. Put lid on casserole, pop in oven for 4 to 6 hours. After 3 or so hours, poke contents with a knife to see how it’s coming along. It’s done when everything is entirely soft. Remove lid in final hour of cooking to brown and crisp the top potatoes.
Lancashire Hotpot is usually dated back to the start of industrialisation in the area, from the 1750s onwards. It really was designed as an oven dish from the start, as opposed to a stew in a pot over flame. It required potatoes being widely enough accepted to be available, and access to an oven (access to an oven was a luxury throughout much of history.)
Historically, it seems that the meat was actually mutton, as mutton was cheap and easy to get in the area. Historically, a few oysters were added, too, for rich flavouring, as they were also cheap, what with Lancashire being on the coast.
Literature & Lore
In the television programme “Coronation Street”, the character of Betty Williams is famous for the hotpot she serves at the Rovers Return Inn.
By ‘eck! Lancashire hotpot set to become the next English cuisine granted protected status. London: Daily Mail. 5 April 2011.
Hix, Mark. Lancashire Hot Pot. London: The Independent. 14 October 2006.
Human Beans. Sonja’s Lancashire Hotpot. September 2006. Retrieved October 2010 from http://whatscookinggrandma.humanbeans.net/card/8