A hearty meal you can leave to bubble away in the oven, plus a bonus recipe for pickled red cabbage as the perfect accompaniment
The comfortingly named hotpot is a very useful recipe to have in your repertoire. Easy, and relatively cheap to make, it will bubble away happily in the oven while you get on with something else, and needs nothing more to accompany it than some steamed greens or a dollop of pickled red cabbage. A simple but profound pleasure.
Prep 15 min
Cook 2 hr
Pickle 2 days+ (optional)
4–6 best-end or middle-neck lamb or mutton cutlets (see step 1)
400g diced lamb or mutton neck fillet or shoulder
Flour, salt, sugar, and white or black pepper, to dust
3 large potatoes (see step 5)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
20g butter, plus extra for greasing
1 bay leaf
500ml lamb stock (see step 5)
For the pickled red cabbage (optional)
1 small red cabbage
2 tbsp salt
600ml cider, white-wine or pickling vinegar
1 tbsp black peppercorns (optional)
1 tbsp dried juniper berries (optional)
1 tbsp yellow or brown mustard seeds (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 tbsp sugar (of any colour)
1 Make the cabbage well in advance
If you want to make your own pickled red cabbage to go with the hotpot (note: you’ll have to start it a few days ahead), trim and shred the cabbage, cutting the core into small chunks. Sprinkle with the salt and set aside for eight hours. Wash off the salt in cold water, then drain and pat dry.
2 Make the pickling liquor
Meanwhile, pour the vinegar into a large pan, and add some or all of the spices, bay leaf and sugar. Bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to cool.
3 Pickle the cabbage
Pack the cabbage into clean jars (I sterilise mine by putting them through a hot dishwasher, but if you prefer, wash them in hot, soapy water and dry them in a low oven), then pour the cold pickling liquid on top, making sure the cabbage is completely covered. Seal and leave for at least two days, and preferably two weeks.
4 A word on the meat
Traditionally made with mutton (my preference), hotpot also works well with lamb or hogget (and would be good with goat, too). The bones of the cutlets add variety, and flavour to the gravy (if you have a butcher you can ask for such things, choose larger middle-neck cuts), but substitute 800g neck fillet or boneless shoulder, if you prefer.
5 Prep the lamb and potatoes
Dust all the meat with flour and a good pinch each of salt, sugar and ground white or black pepper, tossing the pieces so they’re lightly coated. Peel the potatoes and cut into thin slices – a floury variety such as maris piper, king edward, desiree, Rooster or similar would be ideal, but waxier varieties will also work.
6 Prep the rest, and grease a casserole
Peel and thinly slice the onions, and pick the leaves off the thyme sprigs. Melt the butter in a microwave or small pan, then set aside.
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and grease a high-sided ovenproof casserole dish, ideally one for which you have a lid (though you could use foil), with oil or extra butter.
7 Start layering up the pot
Arrange about a third of the potatoes in the bottom of the dish and season with salt, pepper and a little thyme.
Top with all the seasoned meat, tuck the bay leaf in there as well, then top with all the sliced onions and season again with a little salt, pepper and thyme.
8 Add stock to cover
Pour in the lamb stock, adding just enough to come up to the top of the onions, but no more. (If you can’t find decent lamb stock, use beef, chicken or even vegetable instead – the meat will add flavour to the gravy as it cooks.)
9 Top with the rest of the spuds
Finish the dish by arranging the remaining potatoes on top like overlapping fish scales, then season with salt, pepper and the rest of the thyme.
Brush the potatoes with the melted butter, cover and bake for two hours (if using mutton, give it half an hour longer). Remove the cover and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes, until the potatoes on top are golden and crisp, then serve with the pickled cabbage, if using.
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