Lancashire, a county in northwestern England, between the Irish Sea and the Pennines mountain range known as the “backbone of England”, has an excellent stew named after him: the Lancashire hotpot.
How to make Lancashire hotpot
Originally, this recipe was usually prepared with mutton, but nowadays lamb, and more precisely lamb shoulder, is more commonly used.
The lamb is cooked with onions, which are then covered with sliced potatoes. Many regional variations add vegetables such as carrots, turnips or leeks. Many old recipes also add lamb kidneys. Modern variants can use beef chops or bacon instead of lamb.
The original traditional recipe used to include oysters, which were very cheap when this dish was created, in the nineteenth century, but rising costs in times of crisis eliminated them from common use.
It has become very common today to prepare this dish with lamb chops. Chopped lamb shoulder is also used.
In any case, whatever the chosen cut of meat, the cooking of the Lancashire hotpot must be very slow and in the oven. Pickled red cabbage or beetroot, and in some areas Lancashire cheese, are sometimes served as an accompaniment.
What is the origin of the Lancashire hotpot?
Did you know that Britain was the world’s largest producer of cotton fabrics?
The mechanized spinning and weaving of cotton fiber began in Britain and spearheaded the industrial revolution. By 1860, Lancashire had 2,650 cotton mills, employing 440,000 people, producing half of the world’s cotton. By the turn of the twentieth century, things were going well and cotton mills in Lancashire were producing 8 billion cloth yards a year, which were exported all over the world.
The connection between the Lancashire hotpot and cotton
The Lancashire hotpot would be at the origin of the cotton industry in the nineteenth century. Indeed, it was popular when the Lancashire cotton industry was at its peak in the nineteenth century. The dish was simple and quick to prepare and could be left to cook on its own for very long hours, over low heat. Those who cooked it, the mill workers, worked in the mills and factories that contributed to the prosperity of the economy of England.
Several hours later, as they came back from a hard day’s work, the workers found a tasty stew, with the lamb melting gently with the ingredients that made it up. Oysters, which were cheap at the time, were sometimes added to add volume to the mixture.
The first written reference to the hotpot is in a letter from “A man from Lancashire” reproduced in the Annals of Agriculture of 1795 where he is described as the poor man’s pie, “consisting of a trifling portion of beef or mutton, either raw or boiled, cut into small pieces and mixed in a dish of sliced potatoes, proportioned to the size of the family, to which you add pepper and salt and a little water with butter or dripping, as gravy, the wholesome and savoury addition of a shred onion is often made, and gives a good relish. The dish of hot-pot, or lob scouce as termed by sailors, is composed of the same ingredients except a crust and that it is simmered over the fire in a pan or in a pipkin in an oven.”
What is the difference between lamb and mutton?
The sheep is one of the first animals to have been domesticated by humans. It is a domestic species of herbivorous mammals belonging to the Caprine family. It is especially appreciated for its milk which is used for the manufacture of cheeses, for its meat, for its skin with which leather is prepared and for its wool.
The non-castrated male sheep is called the ram, and the female is called the ewe. The young sheep is called the lamb.
– The lamb is raised up to 12 months before being slaughtered. Hence producing a younger meat that is softer than that of mutton. This is why cooking lamb takes significantly less time.
– The sheep (mutton) is slaughtered at 24 months. Its taste is definitely stronger. More marked, fleshier and darker, its meat is ideal for slow cooking, such as stew or couscous.
Lamb and mutton can be cooked in the same way: boiled, barbecued, stir-fried, baked, or stewed. What will differentiate the two is simply the cooking time that will be much longer for mutton because its meat is thicker, harder and fatter.
For example, for a mutton stew, cooking can take up to 3 hours or more. For a couscous for example, we prefer a mutton meat to that of lamb. It is fleshier, tastier and its long and slow cooking lends itself to couscous. For grilled dishes, lamb ribs are more appreciated than those of mutton. The meat is tender and the taste less strong than that of lamb.
To make the meat softer, it can be marinated overnight or pounded energetically with a mallet, at room temperature, and then leaving it to rest for about thirty minutes before cooking it.
I chose to use lamb for this Lancashire hotpot recipe, but which cut should you choose? How do you recognize a beautiful piece of lamb? Two signs above all: the tight grain of its flesh and the whiteness of its fat.
Lamb offers many choice cuts: leg, shank, shoulder, rack, saddle, loin, or fillet. Your butcher will explain that the lamb offers slow-cooking pieces for daube stews, tajines, or couscous, etc. and quick-cooking pieces such as chops.
The Lancashire hotpot is a unique hot, comforting, and nourishing dish that scents the whole house as it simmers on fire and in the oven. At home it was a great success!
- 1¼ lb lamb , diced (neck, shoulder, chops)
- ½ lb lamb kidneys (or mutton kidneys)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 large onions , peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 cups hot chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper , freshly ground
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 medium carrots , peeled and cut into small pieces
- 1½ lb potatoes , peeled and cut into ⅛-inch thick slices
- 2 tablespoons melted butter (for the top)
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a Dutch oven on medium heat, melt the butter and vegetable oil for 3 minutes.
Add the onions and sauté for 4 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the lamb and kidneys, then add the flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the broth, bay leaves, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce and stir well.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes.
Add the carrots and mix well.
Transfer the content to a 10-inch diameter casserole dish or pie dish.
Garnish with sliced potatoes. Start from the outside and lay the potatoes, heading towards the center.
Brush the top of the potatoes with the melted butter and sprinkle with dried thyme.
Cover with a lid or foil, and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
After one hour, increase the oven temperature to 390 F and remove the lid.
Bake again for 30 minutes until the potatoes are golden and crisp.
Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.