Like any regional British dish, Lancashire Hotpot has long been the subject of fierce debate among foodies.
The traditional Victorian recipe has naturally been adapted over the years. Many renowned chefs have tried to incorporate more modern touches – with mixed receptions!
However, when made well, Lancashire Hotpot is an easy, delicious meal for all the family to enjoy. If you lead a busy lifestyle but don’t want to give in to the temptations of the takeaway, one-pot dishes that do most of the work themselves are a very attractive option.
So, let’s take a look at what goes into this much-loved Northern classic.
These days, you are most likely to find lamb as the primary ingredient of a proper Lancashire hotpot, but in fact in its early days mutton was often used. However, with mutton becoming increasingly harder to find at your local supermarket, a good quality cut of lamb is your best bet.
One area of debate surrounds which bit of the lamb you should use for the best results. Popular cuts include best-end, middle-neck, shoulder, shin, loin and chops. Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth, whose version of Lancashire Hotpot was chosen as a winning main course in the Great British Menu 2012 competition, actually uses more than one of these cuts to create his signature dish.
That’s a lot of options, and at this stage it’s really all about opinions, so see what works best for you. Some recipes require you to coat the meat in flour prior to cooking. While entirely optional, this will help you achieve the rich, thick gravy that will really make your hotpot sing.
Some recipes, such as these from celebrity chefs Delia Smith and James Martin, call for the addition of lamb kidneys to the filling. These certainly add another dimension to the dish, with the long cooking time ensuring they really melt in the mouth.
Traditionally, oysters may also have been included. When the dish was first invented, oysters were very cheap, but today of course they will set you back a bit more. Much of the Lancashire Hotpot’s charm is that it has its roots in affordable, easily available ingredients, so oysters have somewhat disappeared from many recipes.
A modern addition to the Lancashire hotpot that has seen a relatively positive reaction is black pudding. This could be down to the fact that the North West is home to some of the country’s finest black pudding, meaning many will not regard the ingredient as too much of an impostor. The Hairy Bikers include it in their recipe.
A final note here – some ‘hotpot’ recipes use beef or pork as their main ingredient. That’s fine, we’re sure they taste very nice, but these are not Lancashire hotpots. If you want to stay true to tradition, lamb or mutton is they way to go.
Again, there is some debate as to what’s needed for a traditional hotpot. Onion is the only vegetable that appears to be absolutely essential, while many recipes also use carrot.
Modern twists on the Lancashire Hotpot can incorporate other vegetables such as swede, turnip, mushroom and leek, but there will be many who would be appalled at this suggestion.
You might want to consider serving such vegetables as a side dish, so people can decide for themselves.
A popular accompaniment is pickled red cabbage, with the crunchy cabbage and sharp dressing providing a lovely contrast to the tastes and textures of your hotpot.
The first thing you need to know here is that not all potatoes are created equal. Your potatoes will top the Lancashire Hotpot with a delicious golden crust, which will be the first thing people see when your dish gets to the table. They say you eat with your eyes, so make sure you get the variety that will give you the best results for both looks and taste.
You want a floury potato for this job, avoiding any of the waxy varieties. Maris Piper or King Edward are generally used by those in the know.
To give you an idea of how important it is to find the right potato, Nigel Haworth actually holds regular ‘potato tastings’ with his staff to ensure they always get the best available for their hotpot.
Now it’s your turn
As far as recipes go, we’re not going to challenge the authority of the chefs we’ve linked to. Have a look at their methods and see which one is most convenient for you.
The beauty of Lancashire Hotpot is that once you’ve prepared all your ingredients, it’s simply a case of leaving it all to cook. A reliable Britannia range cooker will ensure you are always in control of your baking temperature, while the slow cooking method leaves you with wonderfully tender lamb and tempting, crispy potatoes.
It really is a satisfying meal to cook. In no time at all, your hotpot will be filling your kitchen with the delicious smell of home cooking, so you’ll soon be the most popular person in your house.
Why not have a go at making your own Lancashire Hotpot and let us know how you get on?