One of the great stews of the world, the virtue of the Lancashire hotpot is in its simplicity. The origin of its name is often disputed, from a cooking pot wrapped in blanket to provide a hot lunch for the races, to something slow cooked in a lidded earthenware pot to feed the hungry Lancashire mill workers at the end of a long hard day. I suspect it is more likely to be connected with what is in the pot, which originally would have been a ‘hodge-podge’ or jumble of ingredients – whatever was to hand that day – usually revolving around lamb or mutton.
Can you improve on the glorious simplicity of a true Lancashire Hotpot? Well, I’m not sure I can answer that, but I definitely felt it was worth experimenting! With a haunch of venison lurking in the bottom of my deep freeze (and space needed for the pheasant season), as well as a family love of black pudding, I thought it was well worth giving this alternative recipe a go.
Family verdict: 5 stars!
2 tbsp olive oil (or you can use butter if preferred)
1kg/2lb 2oz haunch of venison, or 6 large venison steaks, trimmed and cubed
200g ox kidney, cored and chopped (optional! Just add a couple more carrots instead)
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp plain flour
300ml/10fl oz beef stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
50g/2oz butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
2 x 250g/7oz good black pudding rings, outer casing removed, thickly sliced
1kg/2lb 2oz Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and sliced quite thinly (about 5mm)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the venison pieces and kidneys for 1-2 minutes on both sides, or until golden-brown all over. Remove from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan, cook the onions, carrots, garlic and salt for a couple of minutes, or until the onions have softened. Stir in the flour until the onions and carrots are well coated with the flour.
Add the stock to the pan along with the thyme, bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until thickened slightly.
Butter a lidded flame-proof casserole dish and place a layer of potatoes (about a third) over the bottom of the dish and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon in half of the browned venison and ox kidneys, then lay over half of the black pudding slices and pour over half of the thickened stock mixture. Repeat the layering process until all of the potatoes, venison pieces and kidneys, black pudding and stock have been used, finishing with a layer of potatoes on top. Dot the potatoes with the butter, then cover with a lid.
Place the casserole into the oven to cook for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden-brown on top.
I served the hotpot with cooked beetroot, as that’s what is in my veg. garden at the moment. It made a colourful and comforting addition, the earthiness of the beetroot complimenting the spiced black pudding perfectly. This hot-pot serves six people and apart from the beetroot, nothing else is needed, as you have carrots, onions and potatoes in the casserole, making it a one-pot meal.
I suspect if you lowered the temperature of the oven and added a little more stock or even beer, you could leave this one to cook for a couple of hours – making it perfect for a shoot lunch or a warm welcome back from a blustery Sunday walk. Particularly worth considering if you think your venison maybe a bit on the tough side!
Find more inspiration in our recipes section.