Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lancashire Hotpot

Autumn is upon us here in the cool, gray Pacific Northwest. The nights have grown cold (even a little frosty!) and the fall leaves are turning. It's the perfect time of year for hearty, warming meals. I have yet to make my first soup of the season, but recently I had another hankering for some piping hot, savory Britfood. To that end, I ventured into the kitchen to try my hand at Lancashire Hotpot.

Lancashire Hotpot is a one-pot dish, in the same family as casseroles or pot-a-feu. It's simple to prepare and ignore, as it cooks slowly at low to medium heat: you can assemble the ingredients, pop it in the oven, and leave it alone while you go do something else for awhile. The general ingredients are ground lamb, sliced potatoes, broth, root veggies, butter and seasonings. A traditional hotpot is made with lamb only, but I made mine with ground beef, and it turned out great. You can mix beef and lamb, as well as mixing up the various root vegetables depending on what you like or what's in season; you can also substitute flat beer or ale for part of the broth.

About 1/2 lb. of ground lamb, beef, or a mix
2 or 3 carrots, sliced into 1-inch chunks or 1/4-inch medallions
1 medium white or yellow onion, in 1/2-inch dice
2 to 3 medium-sized firm potatoes cut into thin slices (stay away from baking potatoes; they fall apart too easily)
About 1/2 pound root veggies, cut into 1-inch chunks (try yams, parsnips, or turnips)
Broth (beef, or a mixture of chicken and beef)
Salt & pepper

We used carrots, parsnips, turnips & red potatoes
Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cook the ground meat in a little bit of butter or oil on the stovetop over medium heat until mostly cooked but not browned. Drain off most of the fat, then add onion and cook until translucent but not browned. Add carrots and root veggies. Season with thyme, salt and pepper to taste.

You can also cook the veggies first if you like.
 Cook until the meat is starting to brown.

Meat & veggies
 Transfer the lot to a casserole dish with a lid. Use a spoon to flatten out the top. Pour in the liquid until it almost covers the meat/veggie mixture. Put a layer of sliced potatoes on top of the mixture. Dot with butter, sprinkle salt & pepper to taste, then add another layer of sliced potatoes. Dot with butter again, put the lid on, and pop into the oven. (I recommend setting the casserole dish on a cookie sheet with a fairly deep lip, as the pot can bubble over and leak out while it's cooking if the lid isn't terrifically tight.)

Potatoes on top. Note level of liquid.
Cook for about an hour to an hour and a half, then take the lid off and cook for another 15 to 30 minutes to brown the top layer of potatoes.

Piping hot!
Serve with crusty bread, a winter salad, steamed winter veggies (like broccoli, mustard greens, or Brussels sprouts), and a good stout, dark ale or porter. Perfect for a chilly fall night.

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