Traditional Lancashire hotpot is the ultimate comfort food. Slow-cooked oven-baked lamb and onions, covered with a crispy potato topping. A warming winter supper doesn’t get better than this.
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 is one of those dishes. Originating in the north-west of England, over 200 years ago, this dish has been cooked in countless English kithens over the years. It stands along side Yorkshire meat and potato pie and Toad-in-the-hole as an example of the finest English homely cooking. Plain wholesome cooking at its best.
Lancashire hotpot is made by layering potatoes, onions and pieces of lamb in a casserole dish. Lamb stock is poured over and then a final layer of potatoes is placed on top. It is then covered with a lid and placed in a medium oven to slow-cook for about 90 minutes. The lid is then removed and the dish is left in the oven to cook for another 15 minutes until the potatoes turn golden and start to crisp.
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.
Earlier versions of 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 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
Lancashire hotpot is a simple dish. The basic recipe has only three main ingredients, 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.
For 4 people you will need between 800g and 1kg of meat.
You will need the same quatity of potatoes by weight as the lamb.
You can use any variety of potato, but I like to use either King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes as they turn fluffy when cooked, and they 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 can use a mandolin 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 mandolin 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 water.
You will need sufficient stock to just reach the final layer of meat as you assemble the dish.
To thicken the stock you will need 1 Tablespoon (10g) cornflour 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 Lancashire Hotpot
Assemble the layers
- Peel and slice the potatoes and onions to about 1/2cm width. I used a mandolin for this, on its widest setting.
- Place a layer of potato on the bottom of a casserole dish. This will 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.
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.
- Add another layer of potato and onion, followed by the remaining lamb.
Add the stock
- If using stock cubes, dissolve them in boiling water. You will need one stock cube per cup of water.
- Add the worcestershire sauce and tomate paste to the stock and stir.
- Mix the cornflour with enough cold water to make a smooth paste and stir into the stock.
- Pour over the meat, onions and potatoes until the stock just comes up to the final layer of meat.
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.
- 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 th casserole dish. The potatoes will be a bit pale and unappetising looking.
- Replace the uncovered casserole dish in the oven and leave for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the potatoes to crisp and turn golden.
- 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.
Other warming winter dishes
Why not try one of these other hearty winter dishes.
- Hungarian Goulash – served with homemade spaetzle
- Winter soup – with crusty homemade bread
- One pan pasta – a delicious pasta dish made in one pan
Your questions answered
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.
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.
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.
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.
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You don’t need very much equipment to make this dish. The main thing you will need is a heavy casserole dish for baking the hotpot.
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Recipe – Lancashire hotpot
- 1 kg lamb (neck, shin or shoulder)
- 1 kg 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 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 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 it is still a bit tough, cover and return to the oven for 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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