Traditional Lancashire hotpot is the ultimate comfort food. Slow-cooked, oven-baked layers of succulent lamb, potatoes and onions, covered with a crispy potato topping. This lamb hotpot is one of my favourite casseroles.
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Origins of Lancashire hotpot
There is a good reason why some dishes stand the test of time. It’s because they taste so good. And Lancashire hotpot (or lamb hotpot) is one of those dishes. Originating in the north-west of England, over 200 years ago, this lamb casserole has been cooked in countless English kitchens over the years. It stands along side Yorkshire meat and potato pie, Toad-in-the-hole and Cottage Pie as an example of the finest British homely cooking.
Unless you have tasted a Lancashire hotpot, you will find it hard to believe that such a delicious dish can come out of so few ingredients. But believe me, it’s true. There are no fancy herbs and spices in this dish, jut plain wholesome cooking at its finest.
Earliest form of slow cooker
A Lancashire hotpot was probably the forerunner of one pot meals, and the earliest form of the slow cooker. During the industrial revolution, more and more women had begun working in the woollen mills. They needed a easy way to feed their family and they would take the prepared dish to the local baker on their way to work. He would put it in his oven (not every home had an oven in those days) and the women would pick it up again on their way home, wrapped in a blanket to keep it warm. Hence the term hotpot.
Another theory is that the dish was a ‘hodge podge’ of ingredients, and over the years the term evolved to become hotpot.
What goes into a Lancashire hotpot?
A Lancashire hotpot contains layers of lamb, potatoes, carrots and onions baked in a casserole dish. It is covered with seasoned stock before a final layer of potatoes is placed on top. The casserole is covered with a lid and placed in a medium oven to slow-cook for about 90 minutes before the lid is removed for the final 15 minutes. The juices from the lamb and stock soak into the underside of the potatoes, leaving them soft and creamy, while the top of the potatoes is crispy and golden.
Traditionally, Lancashire hotpot also contained lamb kidneys and oysters, but this is a matter of taste. Back in the day, oysters were a cheap way of bulking up the meat, but as oysters became more popular, and consequently more expensive, their use has died out.
This easy recipe requires no other embellishments. I can’t think of anything nicer to come home to after a long day at the grindstone, than a piping hot dish of Lancashire hotpot. Just look at that succulent lamb underneath the creamy potatoes!
What you will need
You will need a heavy casserole dish with a tightly fitting dish, like this cast iron Dutch oven. You can get them in varying sizes depending on the size of your family. What I like about using these is the fact that the tightly fitting lid prevents liquid evapourating during cooking, so your casseroles are practically guaranteed not to dry out.
**You can find the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making a Lancashire hotpot on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
This recipe will easily feed 4 people.
Lancashire hotpot is a simple dish. You don’t need many ingredients – lamb, potatoes, carrots and onions. And of course, you will need some stock and seasoning.
You don’t need to be too precise with the measurements – just ensure you have sufficient lamb for the number of people you will be serving and adjust the quantities for the potatoes and onions around this.
Traditionally a hotpot was made with mutton, as this was a much cheaper cut than lamb. Nowadays, mutton is more difficult to get hold of, and it is more common to see lamb in a hotpot.
Lamb neck, shin or shoulder are the most commonly used cuts, as these benefit from the long, slow cooking time. That said, you can use the equivalent amount of your cut of choice. You can even make this with bone-in chump lamb chops.
If you enjoy lamb kidneys, by all means add some. You will need one coarsely chopped kidney per person.
Lamb can be quite a fatty cut of meat, so I like to trim the visible fat off the meat before using it.
If you are using lamb that is still on the bone (ie chops or neck) you will need about 200g per person. If you are using boneless lamb (ie cubed from the shoulder) you will need about 150g per person.
You will need the same quantity of potatoes by weight as the lamb.
The potatoes have to be thinly sliced into approximately 1/2cm rounds. You could use a mandoline for this, or if you don’t have one, a sharp knife will work just as well. Use nice big potatoes so that you get large slices – they are much easier to layer on top of the meat than small slices.
I find the best potatoes to use for a Lancashire hotpot are either King Edward or Maris Piper as they turn fluffy when cooked, and tend to absorb the flavours of the gravy better than a waxy potato.
You will need 1 large onion for every 450g (1 pound) of potatoes.
Slice the onion thinly as per the potatoes, using a mandoline or a sharp knife.
Finally you will need some carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds. Allow one small to medium carrot per person (or about half a cup, sliced).
Other ingredients you will need
In addition to the main ingredients, you will need the following:
If you don’t have real lamb stock to hand you can make your own, using one stock cube per cup of boiling water. You will need sufficient stock to just cover the meat and vegetables. If you can’t get hold of a lamb stock cube, you can substitute this for a beef or even vegetable stock cube.
To thicken the stock you will need 1 tablespoon of plain flour per cup of stock.
Worcestershire Sauce and Tomato Paste
This is all you will need to add for extra flavour. You will need 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste per cup of stock. Make sure you use tomato paste, which is very highly concentrated – tomato ketchup won’t give the same taste.
Sunflower oil for browning the lamb before adding it to the hotpot. You can get away without browning the lamb, but this step does add extra flavour.
Salt and Pepper
This is for flavouring and is to your own taste. Each of the layers should be lightly seasoned with salt and pepper as the dish is assembled. This dish benefits from quite a lot of pepper.
What to do
Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown it on both sides.
Arrange a layer of potatoes on the bottom of your casserole dish. This will prevent the meat from sticking to the dish.
Arrange half of the carrots and onions over the potatoes.
Season the layer of vegetables lightly with salt and pepper.
Be careful not to add too much salt at this stage. You have to season each layer as you assemble the dish so sprinkle lightly.
Arrange the browned lamb over the vegetables and then cover with the remaining onions and carrots.
Season this layer lightly with salt and pepper.
Mix the worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and flour with the stock and pour it over the meat and vegetables.
Arrange a layer of potatoes on top. Let them overlap one another, a bit like scales on a fish.
Cover the casserole dish with a lid and place it in a preheated oven (175C / 350F) for 90 minutes.
Remove the lid and leave the casserole in the oven for a further 10 to 15 minutes to brown and crisp the potatoes.
The timing depends on the cut of lamb you are using. To test that the lamb is tender enough, remove the casserole from the oven and take out a piece of lamb from beneath the potato. If it still seems a little tough, put the casserole back in the oven for a longer cooking time. The cut of lamb I used in this recipe was fall-apart tender after 90 minutes.
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Lancashire hotpot FAQ
I like to serve this dish with a side of vegetables. Peas go well, as do sweet potatoes or yams. A side helping of broccoli or brussels sprouts also makes a tasty accompaniment.
Yes, you can add additional vegetables to it. I wouldn’t swap out the potatoes or onions as these are basic ingredients. Buy you could add slices of sweet potato, swedes and/or parsnips.
Some people like to add mushrooms. I think these would go very well, especially if you are including lamb kidneys.
Yes, you can use beef instead of lamb. Stewing beef is ideally suited to slow cooking so you can substitute stewing beef for lamb. Cooking times will remain the same.
Yes, you can do one of two things.
1. Assemble the dish, and pour over the stock. But do not add the potatoes to the top or you will find they turn black on standing. Cover with a lid and leave in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you are ready to make it, just add the potato topping and bake in the oven as per the recipe.
2. Assemble the dish, pour over the stock and cover with the potatoes. Bake in the oven until the dish is cooked but omit the final step of browning the potatoes. Allow to cool, cover with a lid and leave in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you are ready to make it, just place the uncovered dish in a hot oven until the dish is heated through and the potatoes are crisp and golden.
Lamb, potatoes and onions all freeze very well. Just transfer any leftovers from the casserole dish into a plastic container and store in the freezer for up to 4 months.
To use, defrost in the fridge and then re-heat either in the microwave, or in a saucepan on the stovetop.
You can also freeze the dish once you have cooked it (as far as point 2 in the above section “Can I make this dish in advance“). Just wrap the cooled dish in a layer of tinfoil, cover with clingfilm and freeze for up to 3 months.
When you are ready to use it, remove from the freezer and allow to defrost overnight in the fridge. Then place the defrosted, uncovered dish in a hot oven until the dish is heated through and the potatoes are crisp and golden.
Save for later
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You may also like these other warming winter dishes:
- Hungarian Goulash – served with homemade spaetzle – a delicious beef stew liberally flavoured with paprika.
- Winter soup – with crusty homemade bread – made in a pressure cooker with shin beef, vegetables and dried soup mix.
- One pan pasta – beef mince, vegetables and pasta combined with grated cheese and all made in one pan.
- Meat and potato pie with mushy peas – a traditional British dish of meat and potatoes with a soft suet pastry.
- Hearty beef casserole with suet dumplings – slow cooked beef with fluffy dumplings – the ultimate in comfort food.
Recipe – Traditional Lancashire hotpot (lamb hotpot)
Traditional Lancashire Hotpot (lamb hotpot)
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 2 lb / 900 grams lamb
- 2 lb / 900 grams potatoes peeled and sliced
- 2 medium onions peeled and sliced
- 2 medium carrots peeled and cut into rings
- 2 cups lamb, beef or vegetable stock use 2 stock cubes dissolved in boiling water if you don't have fresh stock
- 2 tablespoons flour mixed with a little water
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons sunflower (or other neutral flavoured oil)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/350°F
- Peel and slice the potatoes, carrots and onions2 lb / 900 grams potatoes, 2 medium onions, 2 medium carrots
- Place a layer of potatoes in a casserole dish and top with half the onions and add the carrots. Season lightly with salt and pepper.Salt and pepper
- Trim most of the visible fat from the lamb and discard.2 lb / 900 grams lamb
- Heat the oil in a separate pan and fry the pieces of lamb until they are nicely browned on all sides.2 tablespoons sunflower (or other neutral flavoured oil)
- Arrange the browned lamb over the vegetables and cover with the remaining carrots and onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Dissolve the stock cubes in boiling water.2 cups lamb, beef or vegetable stock
- Add the worcestershire sauce and the tomato paste to the stock and mix.3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Mix the flour to a paste with a little cold water and mix into the stock.2 tablespoons flour
- Pour the stock over the meat until it just covers the ingredients.
- Arrange a layer of potatoes on top of the meat, overlapping them slightly like fish-scales. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
- Cover the casserole dish with a lid and place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 90 minutes.
- Remove the dish from the oven and test the meat for doneness. If the meat is still a bit tough, cover and return to the oven for another few minutes until the meat is done.
- Remove the lid from the casserole dish and replace in the oven. Leave for 10 to 15 minutes until the potatoes start to crisp and turn golden brown.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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