Traditional Lancashire hotpot… or not?

It’s the season for hearty warming meals, and what better than a traditional Lancashire hotpot? But what’s traditional? I was thinking about this a little while ago:

What exactly is a traditional recipe? For example, a traditional Lancashire hotpot… in essence it is a slow-cooked lamb or mutton casserole covered with a layer of sliced potatoes to make a nice tasty yummy dish! It is nicely seasoned with salt and pepper, added stock,  has onions in it and kidneys… wait a minute, kidneys? Really? In Lancashire hotpot? Are you sure? Well yes, according to James Martin, the TV chef. So, lamb or mutton, seasoning, kidneys, bay leaves and sage, black pudding… Hang on, black pudding? Well I guess the best black puddings in the world comes from Lancashire, so OK…and also the Hairy Bikers include it in their recipe, and now I find that Delia Smith adds thyme rather than sage. I investigate some more and some cooks add carrots, while Nigel Slater only has lamb, onions and salt and pepper!

I guess if I asked all my friends in Lancashire they would each have their own family recipe, and that is what traditional is; a basic dish, usually made for working people either labouring in the fields, or under ground in mines, or in the dark satanic mills of industry… a cheap dish which can be made the night before and will come to no harm cooking all day, encased in something to keep the flavour in – potatoes for a hotpot, suet crust for a pudding, pastry for a pie, and with any extra ingredients that come to hand…an old carrot? Chop it up and throw it in, some sage leaves – they can go in too!

A personal example of a traditional dish is midnight soup; it is a lovely rich beef soup with all sorts of good things added and finished off with brandy and port and cream… it is a family recipe which came from my dear aunty, Beryl. When I cook it  I tweak it, we have it at Christmas so I put Christmas spices in and some orange peel; my children will think that is how it should be and no doubt if they cook it in the future for their families, they will follow my basic idea but add little extras of their own. My cousins, Beryl’s children will probably follow her recipe more precisely, but what about their children?DSCF2352a

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