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.
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. Plain wholesome cooking at its best.
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 and onions in a casserole dish. If you want to add carrots, you can layer them in with the potatoes. It is then covered with lamb stock before a final layer of potatoes is placed on top. The casserole is then covered with a lid and placed in a medium oven to slow-cook for about 90 minutes. Finally the lid is removed and the dish is left in the oven to cook for another 15 minutes until the potatoes turn golden and start to crisp.
A traditional Lancashire hotpot also contained lamb kidneys and oysters. 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.
Ingredients for a Lancashire hotpot
You can get the full recipe for Lancashire hotpot on the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
Lancashire hotpot is a simple dish. The basic recipe has only three main ingredients (lamb, potatoes and onions), along with a few others for flavour.
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. In this recipe I have used lamb shoulder chops, but you can use the equivalent amount of your cut of choice.
You can add lamb kidneys to this dish too, if you enjoy them. You will need one 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 quatity of potatoes by weight as the lamb.
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 meat better than a waxy potato.
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.
You will need 1 large onion for every 500g of potatoes.
Slice the onion thinly as per the potatoes, using a mandoline or a sharp knife.
Other ingredients you will need
In addition to the 3 main ingredients, you will need the following:
Lamb or vegetable stock
If you don’t have stock to hand you can make your own, using one stock cube per cup of boiling water. You will need sufficient stock to just reach the final layer of meat as you assemble the dish. If you can’t get hold of a lamb stock cube, you can substitute this for a chicken stock cube.
To thicken the stock you will need 1 Tablespoon (10g) cornflour (or cornstarch if you live in the USA) per cup of stock.
Worcestershire Sauce and Tomato Paste
This imparts a lovely flavour to the hotpot. You will need 2 Tablespoons (30 ml or 1 fluid ounce) each of worcestershire sauce and tomato paste per cup of stock.
Salt and Pepper
This is for flavouring and is to your own taste. Each of the layers should be seasoned with salt and pepper as the dish is assembled. This dish benefits from quite a lot of pepper.
How to make a traditional Lancashire Hotpot
Assemble the layers
- Place a layer of sliced potato on the bottom of a casserole dish. This is to prevent the meat from sticking and burning on the bottom of the dish.
- Cover with half of the sliced onion and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper (image 2).
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.
- Place half of your chosen cut of lamb on top of the onions and season lightly with salt and pepper (image 3).
- Cover with another layer of potato and onion, followed by the remaining lamb (image 4).
Add the stock
- Add the worcestershire sauce and tomate paste to the stock and stir.
- Mix the cornflour with enough cold water to make a smooth paste, then stir it into the stock. Mixing the cornflour/cornstarch to a paste first will prevent lumps from forming when it is mixed into the hot stock.
- Pour the stock over the meat, onions and potatoes until it just reaches the final layer of meat.
- The gravy will thicken as it cooks, and will combine with all the lovely flavours of the lamb juices and onions.
Arrange potatoes on top and bake
- Arrange a layer of potatoes on top. Let them overlap one another, a bit like scales on a fish (image 1).
- Cover the casserole dish with a lid and place it in a pre-heated oven (175C / 350F) for about 90 minutes.
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 lamb shoulder chops I used in this recipe were fall-apart tender after 90 minutes.
- Once the meat is done, remove the lid from the casserole dish. At this stage the potatoes will be a bit pale and unappetising looking (image 2).
- Replace the uncovered casserole dish in the oven and leave for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the potatoes to crisp and turn golden (image 3).
- You will find that most of the gravy will have soaked into the potatoes, leaving you with lovely creamy potatoes that are full of flavour.
Your questions answered
What can I serve with Lancashire hotpot?
I like to serve this dish with a side of vegetables. Peas and carrots go well, as do sweet potatoes or yams. A side helping of broccoli or brussels sprouts also makes a tasty accompaniment.
Can I add other vegetables to a Lancashire hotpot?
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 sliced carrots, swedes and/or parsnips.
Having said that, I think swapping out the middle layer of potato with a layer of sweet potatoes would be very tasty.
Some people like to add mushrooms. I think these would go very well, especially if you are including lamb kidneys.
Can I use a different meat for Lancashire hotpot?
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.
Can I make this dish in advance?
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.
Can I freeze Lancashire hotpot?
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.
This dish will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. I normally just put it in a covered container in the fridge and re-heat in the microwave for lunch the next day.
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.
Convert grams to cups
To help you convert your recipes, I have created a handy Cookery Conversion Calculator which will convert ingredients between grams, ounces, tablespoons, cups and millilitres. I hope you will find it useful.
If you live at a high altitude you may find you need to adjust your baking recipes to compensate for this. You can read about how to do this in this post on baking at high altitudes.
Recipe – Traditional Lancashire hotpot (lamb hotpot)
Traditional Lancashire Hotpot (lamb hotpot)
- Casserole dish with lid
- Sharp knife or Mandoline
- Measuring jug
- 1 kg (2¼ pounds) lamb (neck, shin or shoulder)
- 1 kg (2¼ pounds) potatoes peeled and sliced
- 2 large onions peeled and sliced
- 3 cups lamb or vegetable stock use 3 stock cubes if necessary
- 3 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch mixed with a little water
- 6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 6 tablespoons Tomato paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/350°F
- Peel and slice the potatoes and onions
- Place a layer of potatoes in a casserole dish and top with half the onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Add a layer of half the meat. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Repeat with another layer of potatoes and onions and a layer of meat. Season each layer lightly.
- Dissolve the stock cubes in boiling water.
- Add the worcestershire sauce and the tomato paste to the stock and mix.
- Mix the cornflour/cornstarch to a paste with a little cold water and mix into the stock.
- Pour the stock over the meat until it just reaches the top layer of meat.
- Arrange a layer of potatoes on top of the meat, overlapping them slightly like fish-scales.
- 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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