Our Family Recipe – Lancashire Hotpot
I am sharing a recipe that means a lot to me. It reminds me of chilly nights with the onset of winter. It reminds me of running home after school, my legs red with the cold and my long hair, blowing over my face. Shouting to my friend running on the other side of the road. She reaches her house first, as she lives near the top of the hill, whereas I live at the bottom of the hill. I shout goodbye, waving furiously.
The rain has started and the freezing droplets sting my face as I run the rest of the way home. I almost trip on the kerb as I cross the side road. Now I am on the home run, five houses, 4 houses, three houses, two houses, finally,I reach our house. I run down the drive and knock on the door. As my Mother opens the front door, I am hit by a wave of warmth from within and the delicious smell of Lancashire hotpot hits my cold, red nose. The noise coming from the dining room sounds like bedlam, but it is a joyous noise. I can see my youngest sister peering round the door. Her cheeks are rosy where she has been playing. My brother joins her laughing and waving, he is only 3 years old. My youngest sister is still a baby, who I can hear gurgling and talking in bursts of sounds.
I remove my coat and feel the heat of the hallway warming my chilled body and my red nose feels stuffy, as it heats up. I have pins and needles in my hands, as they start to waken from their frozen state. I don’t care because I am home. I follow the disappearing figure of my Mother as she walks into the dining room. My Dad is not yet home but the smell of the Lancashire hotpot is enticingly yummy! My stomach rumbles with expectation. “Dinner won’t be long,” my mother calls, from the adjoining kitchen.
There are large sliding doors at the end of the dining area and I can see that it is already getting dark. The rain outside makes a comforting sound, as it splashes against the glass, patio doors. I plonk myself down on the sofa, next to my sister, misjudging the space between us. She throws a pillow, that she has been hugging, at me. I throw it back and pretty soon my younger brother and sister are joining in. There are squeals of laughter as we throw cushions at each other. My Mother shouts from the kitchen, to be heard above the giggles of delight. “Time to set the table,” she calls to each of us by name, giving us specific and individual tasks. The table cloth must be brought out from the drawer, in the side board and laid on the table. My youngest sister brings out the knives and forks and lays them out with clumsy fingers. My other sister goes round after her, to tidy the cutlery. My brother brings out the place mats whilst I bring out the condiments. I bring the glasses and a jug of water for the table.
Our Mother calls from the kitchen again, this time to let us know that Daddy is home. There is a collective of gleeful smiles. I race back into the kitchen, as I know his habit of coming round the back way. I look to the kitchen window, in time to see him pass by. I wave to him and he waves back. He pulls the glass, sliding door open and steps inside. He looks drenched and cold from the icy wind and chilling rain. Our Mother opens the oven door and with the oven gloves, brings out the delicious, Lancashire hotpot. She adeptly, uses her knee to close the oven door. “Okay everyone, time to wash your hands.” We all scuttle off to the bathroom. Daddy is out in the hall, relieved of his heavy, wet overcoat. He has his dark, grey suit on, with his pristine, white shirt and silvery grey tie. His face is red with the cold. I know that he has walked the couple of miles from the station to home, after a long day in London and the overcrowded commute.
We walk back into the Dining room and the table looks beautiful. My Mother is dishing up the Lancashire hotpot. She sets out some extra carrots and green beans, as a garnish. We all sit round the table, pulling our chairs in tight. My mouth is watering with expectation. The smell of the Lancashire hotpot is just perfect for a night like this, with the rain hammering down outside whilst we are all warm inside. It makes everything feel warmer, richer, cosier.
There is a sudden silence of the chatter, as each of us blows instinctively on the hot food, on the end of our forks. The taste as it hits my tongue, is divine. I eat small pieces to make the enjoyment last. However, the silent revelry and the enjoyment of eating our scrumptious meal, does not last. As we each relax, the chatter begins. “How was work dear?” Mother asked. Daddy answered saying that it went well and that they were going to be moving buildings to Lombard Street. “That’s a funny name,” my brother laughed and said in a mock, deep voice, “Lombard.” He laughed again at his own enunciation. My youngest sister giggled, holding her hand across her mouth. My other sister joined in and pretty soon we were all giggling. In fact we were giggling more than we were eating. Mother interjected saying, “come on now, you shouldn’t be giggling whilst you are eating,” “mind your manners.” She looked directly at my brother who was trying to talk and eat at the same time. The look was all that was needed. My brother closed his mouth. In my head I could hear, as I suspect all of us could, Mother saying, as she very often did, “don’t talk with your mouth full.”
As an adult now, whenever I cook Lancashire Hotpot, it reminds me of home. I can see us altogether, around the table, my Mother with her apron on. The smells and the sounds float back to me. Of course my own Lancashire hotpot never quite tastes the same as my mother’s did. It brings back, fond memories of us as a family, with red cheeks and happy faces. For me, it reminds me of coming into the warmth of family and home, out of the chill of the autumn air or of the painful, icy fingers of winter. Coming home to the warmth of the fire, the warmth of family and the warmth of our family dinner together.
My youngest daughter, Charlotte, says that when she makes Lancashire Hotpot, it never tastes as good as when I make it. We have talked about this many times. We believe it is the tangle of wonderful memories that add to the wonder of our favourite dish.
Interestingly, Charlotte researched the various recipes for Lancashire Hotpot and none of them were the same as ours. This was strange to me but Charlotte thought that maybe our Lancashire Hotpot, was an orphanage Hotpot. Further research showed that other favourite, family recipes also did not compare to standard recipes for the same meal. Charlotte is convinced that we have been eating the Orphanage version of all our meals.
To explain briefly, my Mother spent the years from 11 to age 18 in an Orphanage. She learned to cook there, as the older ones used to have to help make the dinners for everyone in the Orphanage. As sad as that sounds, I believe that my Mother’s recipe, Orphanage or not, is the best! I have, over the many years of my life, tasted other versions of Lancashire hotpot. Whilst not wishing to insult other recipes, I still believe my Mother’s was and is the best. Most of all, I believe that the memories that Lancashire Hotpot ignites in me, adds to the beauty of this delicious dinner.
Here is the recipe we use in our family:
1 ½ lb of lean braising steak.
1 large onion or two small onions
3 medium carrots
I tin of tomatoes
1 pinch of sugar
Two vegetable stock cubes – preferably organic
I tin of Heinz beef broth soup – do not substitute with a different brand, it doesn’t taste right otherwise!
1/2 teaspoon of Schwartz Steak herb and spice blend
1 tin of baked beans
5 -6 large potatoes
A knob of butter
Slice the braising steak into small chunks .
Cook the braising steak separately in water with one of the stock cubes in a glass pyrex dish and lid.
Cook for about an hour in the oven – gas mark 6, for half an hour and gas mark 4 for the remaining half hour.
Take out of the oven and place the contents – the braising steak and the stock into a large oval, oven dish.
Slice the potatoes as if you were making slices for crisps, not too thick! Put these into a pot and part boil. When ready, strain.
Slice the onion/s finely and add to the dish.
Slice the carrots finely and add to the dish
Open the tin of tomatoes and chop finely and add to the dish
Add a pinch of sugar – sprinkle over the tomatoes .
Add the second vegetable stock cube, to the dish – make sure you break up the stock cube and sprinkle over the contents of the dish.
Add the Beef Broth Soup to the dish.
Sprinkle the ½ -1 tsp of Steak herb and spice blend over the dish .
Add the tin of baked beans.
Stir the contents of the dish to ensure it is thoroughly mixed in with the steak.
Now carefully place the potato slices over the top of the contents already in the dish.
Do this in layers. Make sure each layer covers the whole of the contents of the dish. Keep going until you run out of potato slices!
Add the knob of butter to the top of the potato layers.
Place in the oven for a further hour on about gas mark 5 or 6 depending on how fierce your gas oven is!
Cook until the potato slices turn a golden brown.
Take out of the oven, dish up and enjoy!
You may want to cook some more vegetables, like asparagus or sliced beans, as a side dish to go with your Lancashire Hotpot.
I really hope you try the Lancashire Hotpot recipe, as I am sure you will love this dish.
About the author
I am a freelance writer for hire, writing on matters of health, mental health, herbal medicine and wellbeing. I love writing and creativity. I am a Medical Herbalist, Psychiatric Nurse, Writer and artist.