The nights are drawing in and there's a definite nip in the air, and thoughts are turning to warming winter dishes. And for a Lancashire lass, especially one who has been exiled to darkest Hampshire, the first thing that springs to mind is Lancashire Hotpot.
Sometimes I see recipes that claim to be the "best" or even the "definitive" recipe for Lancashire Hotpot. They make me cringe - the best is the one you love most, and as for definitive, well as with so many traditional dishes, there is really no such thing. There are as many hotpot recipes in Lancashire as there are cooks, and each one has their own preferred version that has gradually been tweaked and tested over the years, to hone it to what they, and their family, love.
Sometimes recipes insist on including oysters - maybe nowadays that's a touch of poshness for you, but a few generations ago oysters were one of the cheapest proteins around and would have been added simply to pad out the meat. Some people use stewing lamb, or lamb cutlets, some used diced lamb, some add kidneys or other offal, some even use other meats. My dad hated lamb, so all through his life my Mum used stewing beef, or even, when money was tight, a tin of corned beef. (Actually the corned beef version was delicious, like corned beef hash with a crispy topping - I must try that sometime soon!). Sometimes people top their hotpot with pastry, shortcrust, suet or rough puff, a habit that is growing more popular, but I love the crispy potato topping so I won't be doing that any time soon.
One thing everyone agreed on in my childhood - there were two occasions when Lancashire Hoptpot was a must. They were bonfire night and New Year's Eve, when the hotpot could be left to look after itself for several hours while everyone got on with the celebrations. And all through my childhood the accompaniments were the same too - pickled red cabbage, mashed carrots with or without swede turnips, and cold sliced beetroot (generally ruined by dousing it in cheap malt vinegar, one tradition I have NOT maintained).
So here is my Lancashire Hotpot recipe - this makes two hearty servings but can be made for any number of people. Allow several hours cooking time - at least 2½ hours but longer is fine.
400g diced lean lamb
500g peeled potatoes, thinly sliced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
a lump (about 20g) of lard
Preheat the oven to very low - 150C (130 fan), 300 F, gas mark 2
Put the flour in a plastic bag and season well - you'll need a lot of seasoning as you won't be adding any stock, and the seasoning you add here will season the whole dish as the flour is going to become the "gravy". Toss the bag to mix and then tip in the lamb and toss to mix well.
Arrange a quarter of the potatoes in the bottom of a greased heavy earthenware pot with a lid. Top with a quarter of the onions. Repeat the two layers then tip the entire contents of the plastic bag over, spreading it evenly. Carry on layering the potatoes and onions, this time going onion-potato-onion-potato so that you finish up with a layer of potatoes on top.
Pour in cold water (the water must be cold or the flour will go lumpy) to just below the level of the top layer of potatoes then dot the lard over the top. Cover with a well fitting lid and place in the oven for at least 2 hours. 3 or 4 hours wouldn't be too long, but if you cook it for so long check from time to time to make sure it isn't drying out, and top up a little with hot water if it is.
30-40 minutes before serving, turn up the oven to 220C (210 fan), 425 F, gas mark 7. Take the hotpot out of the oven, remove the lid and - here's the magic bit - press the potatoes down with the back of the spoon so that some of the unctuous liquid runs on to the potatoes. Now return the hotpot to the oven without a lid and cook until brown and crispy on top, about 30 minutes.
I've just realised I told you to slice your beetroot but ours were tiny ones from the garden so we ate them whole. The pickled red cabbage is home made too, made with a home grown cabbage. The carrots were also from the garden - I love the crops we have at this time of year!
I am sharing this with the Slow Cooked Challenge at Farmersgirl Kitchen and Baking Queen 74
and also with Simple and in Season at Feeding Boys