Jan 30 2006

Lancashire Hotpot

I am amazed, as I run through my large collection of old cookery books,
how our eating habits have changed over the years. The menus of thirty,
forty, fifty years ago sound so heavy now; even during those frugal
years of rationing in the 1940’s and 50’s and daunting childhood
memories of school food! All this before the food revolution of the
Sixties and the indelible mark of Elizabeth David on our diet.

We have two hogs coming back from the butcher on Monday. Maybe that is
why my mind drifts back to those old books. Mutton is not on the menu
very often now and has definitely fallen from grace until a very recent
revival. I think of mutton chops and Lancashire Hotpot. How the methods
vary. Dorothy Hartley flours and browns her mutton chops before
standing then on end in an earthenware pot. She packs in an onion per
chop, large pieces of carrot, then “some oysters”. Next she covers the
lot with sliced potato overlapping like “tiles on the roof” She makes a
thick, and to my taste, rather heavy gravy with flour, boiling water
and the fat from the fried meat. To this she adds salt, pepper and, she
insists, a sprinkling of sugar. Most important, she says, no, no, I
say! Then in goes a dash of Yorkshire relish or anchovy essence. All
this is poured over the meat and vegetables and the whole is covered
with a lid and baked “with a good fire” for two hours.

Mrs Beeton fries nothing but simply layers meat and vegetables in a
fire-proof baking dish, no oysters here, just water, salt and pepper.
The lid is removed twenty minutes before the end of cooking to crisp
the potatoes. Constance Spry favours the oysters, mushrooms and a good
stock. She covers the pot with grease proof paper instead of a lid
removing it some twenty minutes before the end of cooking to crisp and
brown the potatoes.. No mention, of course, of such a dish from
Elizabeth David. Her mission was to encourage us to look beyond our

I suspect a tour of Lancashire itself would bring as many, maybe more,
variations. So I’ll steer a course through the middle, probably leaving
out the oysters and cooking everything a day in advance, cooling
overnight and removing the fat from the top before reheating. Watch
this space!

One response so far

One Response to “Lancashire Hotpot”

  1. John Vernonon 01 Jan 2008 at 11:38 am

    What is your recipe for Lancashire Hotpot. You said ‘watch this space’. BTW I am an admirer or Dorothy Hartley, who had an unparalleled knowledge of ancient English country life.

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