Friday, 17 July 2009
I'm in to Pot!
NO, not that kind! Good old Lancashire Hot Pot, of course!!! For quite a number of years when I was living in Canada, I would tune into Coronation Street several times a week (being a long time fan of anything British) and watch everyone greedily tucking into servings of Betty Turpin's Hot Pot in the Rover's Return. I often wondered what it was and what did it taste like. It has always been the most popular thing on the Rover's pub menu, and I can remember thinking to myself that it had to be really good to keep the punters coming back to the cobbles on Corry Street, time and time again, for yet more helpings of it.
Lancashire hotpot is a culinary dish consisting essentially of meat, onion and potatoes left to bake in the oven all day in a heavy pot and on a low heat. Originating in the days of heavy industrialisation in Lancashire in the north west of England, it requires a minimum of effort to prepare. It is sometimes served at parties because, not only is it easy to prepare for a large number of people, it is also relatively inexpensive.
There are many regional variations, and it is frequently found listed amongst the usual pub grub dishes in various hostelries around Britain. The basic recipe consists of a mix made up of meat and vegetables (carrot, turnip, potatoes, onions or leek) which are then covered with a buttery thatch of sliced potato or pastry. (Don't you just love the idea of a "thatched" roof of potato covering the top?)The type of meat to be used in a true Lancashire hotpot is a matter of some controversy, with many being of the opinion that it should be lamb (with optional lamb kidneys) and some thinking it should be beef. As much food can be added as will fit in the pot.
Flavour can be enhanced with seasoning; salt and pepper would be the most traditional, and any other ingredients available in the kitchen. Some stock is usually added to cover the contents while it cooks to help keep them moist and aid in the tenderizing, although some recipes rely on a well sealed pot on a low heat to retain enough moisture within the meat, onion and potatoes.
The hot pot referred to is a brown pottery dish with straight sides used to cook casseroles in British cuisine. The basic recipe formerly included oysters at one point, when they used to be more affordable, but more often than not nowadays they are left out. (Good thing too because I am not overly fond of the little boogers, ooops I mean buggers!)
Can you believe that in all the seven and a half years I have been over here I had yet to experience this culinary delight until yesterday when I baked my very own hot pot for the first time???? Neither can I, but I can tell you this, it won't be another seven and a half years before I bake another one. It was absolutely delicious! I now know why people line up at the bar at the Rover's Return to sample this Lancashire piece of golden cuisine!
*Lancashire Hot Pot*
Serves 4 (unless you are a greedy git like me!)
I guess you could call this the English version of Irish stew. One pot cooking of the most delicious persuasion.
1 TBS olive oil
750g diced lamb
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunky pieces
1/2 medium swede (rutabaga) peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
500ml lamb stock
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
750g of potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/350*F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the meat in batches and fry it until browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large casserole dish (one with a lid) as it browns. Set aside.
Once all the meat it browned and removed from the skillet add the vegetables to the pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring them occasionally. Return the lamb to the skillet and pour over the stock. Add the Worchestershire sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix it all in well and then carefully pour the mixture back into the casserole dish. Tuck the two sprigs of thyme into the mixture, burying it.
Cover the top of the mixture with a layer of half of the sliced potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and then dot with butter. Finish layering with the remaining potatoes and adding a final dusting of salt and pepper and dot once again with some butter. Put the lid on.
Bake in the heated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the lid and bake for a further hour until the meat is very tender and the "thatch" is nicely browned in places and tender as well. Serve hot spooned out onto hot plates along with seasonal green vegetables on the side and plenty of crusty bread and butter to mop up the delicious juices.