The Lancashire hotpot is one of the most widely recognised, and loved, British recipes. Traditionally it is a mutton or lamb based dish which includes vegetables and is covered with a layer of sliced potatoes before serving. This is my beef version of the Lancashire hotpot, though it is probably rather far in aesthetical terms from the original dish. The reason I have given it the name ‘hotpot’ is because both dishes share an ideal – they are inexpensive, easy to prepare and extremely hearty and delicious. I tell you, dishes once intended for labourers in heavy industry do work rather well at this time of year.
Quite a few of my readers have been telling me that it’s still rather warm where they come from and that recipes such as this may have to be put on hold for a little while. I’m sorry that you have such inconsiderate weathermen, but it’s getting particularly chilly here in Blighty. It got so cold yesterday that we actually had to put the heating on for the first time in months, I think we may even have had a frost a couple of mornings ago.
You’ll probably want to set aside roughly 4 hours when attempting this dish as, in my opinion, the beef should be cooked for no less than 2 ½ hours, though 3 hours or more is favourable. Indeed, I believe the one pictured simmered for no less than 4 hours – this made the beef exquisitely tender. Beef is just one of those foods, like mushrooms, that can never be overcooked, but are rather easy to undercook. The addition of cannellini beans to this dish was in the spirit of frugality since I didn’t want to go out and buy vast swathes of stewing beef – one of my top frugal tips is about learning to portion your meat intake. Many recipes for beef hotpot call for a good slosh of red wine, this is entirely optional – I didn’t add any and it turned out to be quite rich and tasty enough.
• 350g of good quality stewing beef, cubed
• 150g button mushrooms, quartered
• 500g potatoes, roughly chopped with skins intact
• 2 large onions, roughly chopped
• A pint of stock, beef is preferable
• 2-3 bay leaves
• A couple of well sized sprigs of thyme
• 1 tbsp tomato puree
• 1 tbsp plain flour
• 1 400g tin of cannellini beans, or equivalent from dried
1. Seal the beef in a little oil over a high heat in a large casserole pot. Add the onions and cook until softened. Throw in the potatoes, mushrooms, bay leaves and thyme, before covering with stock. Stir in the puree and flour, cover and leave to simmer on a low heat for 2-4 hours. If it needs a little extra thickening add a touch more flour.
2. Around 20 minutes before serving add the cannellini beans and season to taste. This dish is quite filling enough on its own, though it can be served with bread.
Cost: The entire hotpot weighs in at around £5.40, most of which is spent on the beef. I suppose the impact of the beef could be restrained by using lesser quality meat, but in my opinion that isn’t something worth skimping on. Remember, one relatively expensive ingredient won’t destroy the frugality of a whole dish.