The first time I came across a hotpot was when Marcus Wareing prepared it in the first Great British Menu series. Even though he took great care to research his subject and prepared it most lovingly I couldnï¿½t help but turn up my nose at it. Itï¿½s as if the original cook thought itï¿½s a great idea to throw every single root vegetable under the sun into the pot with a bit of meat in a slapdash way and bung it in the oven, hoping that in a few hours his meal would somehow be magically transformed into something wonderful. Instead all the vegetables turn into the same colour and mysteriously taste the same, seeing that itï¿½s difficult to discern between a potato, turnip and who knows what else thatï¿½s been cooked ad infinitum.
As you can deduce, the whole idea of the Lancashire hotpot didnï¿½t tempt me at all. Browsing through loads of recipe books (because thatï¿½s just the crazy thing I do in my free time) I came across this recipe. My main problem with it was that it called for double (heavy) cream. Now donï¿½t get me wrong. I love cream but paired with lamb which is fatty, the dish suddenly became ultra-rich and just too much to stomach. Whatï¿½s more the sauce wasnï¿½t visually appealing. Why? The stock and cream refused to become friends and instead cream globules would drift in the stock sauce.
After a few failed attempts getting the Knorr stock and cream to merge (racist I tell you!) I decided to substitute the cream with white wine. Voila! Suddenly the once weighty dish transformed into something lighter and it just ï¿½ï¿½ worked. The leek-sandwiched lamb is delicately flavoured which basically comes with two types of potatoes. The potatoes at the bottom of the pot soaks up all the leek and lamb juices and the ones on top are buttered and slightly crispy.
Getting too confident (read lazy and pushed for time) one day, I decided to skip the first step where you have to fry the leeks and onion in butter first. I rationalised that the vegetables will be cooked for almost 3 hours, so why bother with the frying? Big mistake. One, the frying takes the vegetablesï¿½ volume down. Instead it was a huge struggle to get all the ingredients to fit in the pot I usually prepared it in. In fact, I had to take some potatoes out in order to accommodate it. Two, the leeks and onion were crunchy, yes, even after such long cooking time. I have learnt my lessonï¿½
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Lamb & Leek Hotpot
Published: 4 November 2011
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours
Total Cooking Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Weight Watchers Recipe: 87 ProPoints, Per Serving: 14 ProPoints
Serving size: 387.6g, Calories per serving: 543, Fat per serving: 24.8g
50g (2 oz) butter
400g (14 oz) leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
800g (1ï¿½ lb) boneless lamb shoulder, cubed
15ml (1 tbsp) plain flour
15ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
800g (1ï¿½ lb) waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into ï¿½cm (ï¿½ inch) slices
5ml (1 tsp) chopped thyme
300ml (ï¿½ pint) vegetable stock
150ml (5 fl oz) white wine
- Melt half of the butter in a 3.5 litre (6 pint) flameproof casserole. Add the leeks and onion, stirring to coat with the butter. Cover the casserole and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toss the lamb in the flour to coat lightly. Lift out the leek and onion using a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the olive oil to the casserole and heat it, then brown the meat in batches with the garlic and plenty of salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, take out the meat and set aside.
- Layer half the potatoes in the bottom of the casserole with salt and pepper. Spoon half of the leek mixture over the potatoes and level the leek layer. Next, add all the meat on top of the leeks, and then spoon the remaining leeks over the lamb. Arrange the remaining potatoes on top in an overlapping layer, sprinkle with herbs, then pour in the stock and wine.
- Return the casserole to the heat and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven at 170ï¿½C (fan 150ï¿½C/340ï¿½F/gas 3) for 1 hour 50 minutes.
- Remove the lid and dot the potatoes with the rest of the butter. Cook the hotpot, uncovered, for a further 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown. Serve immediately.
- The hotpot is a meal on its own but feel free to prepare some vegetables on the side if you like.
- Please do not skip the first step. Itï¿½s vital that the leeks and onion get fried a bit first.