What is the difference between Irish Stew, and Lancashire Hot Pot? Well, to be honest, not much. One comes from Ireland, and the other from the county of Lancashire in the North of England. Both should include lamb, potatoes, and onions. I've done my research this morning to discover the definitive version, and I would suggest that perhaps, the English version has greater flexibility. Whether this is a good thing or not is a moot point.
Lancashire Hot Pot was a working man's dish, and probably originated in the nineteenth century, during the period of flat caps, whippets, and satanic mills. Some people insist on beef, but I'm sure that the original dish used lamb. But there is one important historic difference. Lancashire Hot Pot should include oysters. A hundred years ago, oysters were much cheaper than they are today, and were considered a staple of the poor man's diet.
Take a neck of lamb, and cut into chunks. Incidentally, neck of lamb is a fantastic cut to bear in mind for another time, and not too expensive. Season them with salt and pepper, and sprinkle them with flour. Arrange the lamb on the bottom of a casserole dish. Get hold of some onions, and slice them up thinly. Sweat them in a frying pan in some butter on a lowish heat, for about five minutes. When they're done arrange them over the lamb.
Next, slice up some carrots into batons, and arrange them over the onions. Throw in some oysters, and add another layer of onions. Finally, slice up some King Edward potatoes, and arrange them so that they cover the whole stew. Season again, with salt and pepper, and brush the potato slices with butter. This will stop them burning. Last but not least, add some chicken stock, so that the stock comes up to just below the potatoes.
Cook in a pre-heated hot oven for about thirty minutes, and then turn down the heat to about 130C and let it simmer for two and half hours. To finish the dish off, take of the lid, crank up the heat to about 200 C and roast it for a further half and hour or so. This will brown up the potato layer on top.
Remember kiddos, the secret of cooking British style stews, is long, slow cooking at lowish temperatures. This will break down the meat. If you cook it too fast on a high heat, your meat will have the texture of rubber. Traditionally, Lancashire Hot Pot is served with braised red cabbage. This is an old English favourite. Red cabbage sliced up, pickled in vinegar, and braised in stock. Another day, I'll initiate you into the secrets of that one.