I grew up in a family where my father was atheist and my mother was a non practising Anglican, however the census didn’t have a space to tick our true religion for we were raised in the way of Coro. Watching Coronation Street was a binding family experience and the politics of how far behind the UK our weekly episodes were was common conversation. So it is no surprise that my first ‘experience’ with a Lancashire hotpot came from the show watching Betty Williams signature dish get handed out in the Rovers Return each week. It was a long time before I actually got to taste the dish but once I did I was hooked. Lamb or if you are lucky hogget or mutton , slow cooked with spuds and onions in a peppery stock is a revelation in how simple cookery can be amazing. This is of course classic pub fare which always goes down well with me , sadly you don’t see it on pub menus often although I had a decent offering at The Cook in Dunedin last year.
I think cooking a classic recipe like this is a good test of ones sense of balance. This is not an arena for revolutionary departures from tradition , swings of fusion cuisine or deconstruction. There is nowhere to hide in a hotpot, good ingredients , cooked and seasoned well . Such a simple dish wins or loses on the quality of the lamb and the level of seasoning. Save a sprinkling of thyme and a bay leave or two this recipe relies on good meat , good onions and good spuds. The one deviation I take from outright tradition , and from the Coro fandom website’s recipe, is the addition of sliced leek. While we are on the topic of bay leaf if there is one thing I think more people should plant its bay trees. My grandparents had a large mature tree in their back garden up on Hemi Matenga , the hill above where I live now . The difference between sad dried supermarket bay and fresh bay is extreme. Fresh bay is vibrant , fruity and bubblegumy, nuanced and complex. My grandparents are dead and the land sold but I have a small tree growing in my back garden.
With this I serve sauteed brussel sprouts. To be honest I serve sauteed brussel sprouts with everything in the colder months. I first had them at Capitol in a life changing dish where they were served with a slow cooked and then seared ‘slice’ of lamb shoulder, amazing. I set about recreating the dish and have made it religiously ever since.
4 large lamb shoulder steaks , or 8 smaller neck chops. If you are lucky enough to get hogget or mutton you will likely need less.
3 onions sliced
1 leek sliced
4 medium size potatoes
flour , sugar , salt and pepper to dust
2 bay leaves
A pinch of dried thyme
500ml good lamb or chicken stock
20g of butter or lard to grease the pot and brush the potato top
Preheat the oven to 170C. Dust the meat lightly with flour and a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly. I use a potato peeler to do this.
Grease a dutch oven or casserole , cover bottom with potato. season.
Add a layer of onion, and season.
Add 1/2 the lamb and season.
Cover with with 1/2 the leek , season.
Add rest of the lamb , season .
Add rest of leek and rest of onion. season. Sprinkle thyme over and push bay leaves into the mix.
Pour the stock over the lot until its just up to the surface, layer the rest of the potato over the top , push down gently with your hands and brush with melted fat.
Cover and bake for 2 hours , then uncover raise heat to 200c and bake for another 30min untill the top is golden .
Sautéed Brussel Sprouts
a mixing bowl worth of Brussels Sprouts roughly sliced and diced
Splash of olive oil
knob of butter
400ml beef or veg stock
1 teaspoon minced garlic
splash of balsamic vinegar
2 splashes of fish sauce
salt and pepper
Add a splash or two of oil to a large frying pan over a medium element
Add sprouts and stir fry for a few minutes
Add fish sauce and fry for another minute , then add garlic , fry a further minute then add butter and allow to melt
Add balsamic and stock and lower heat and allow to cook down and reduce
Check and correct seasoning and serve.