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3 February 2005

Iíve just been reading Terry Pratchettís Going Postal - top form, it really is a fine novel - and it reminded me (via cabbage-flavoured gum) that I was going to give you my recipes for Lancashire hotpot and cabbage(s). So:

For the hotpot, you need various cuts of lamb: traditionally it ought to be scrag end of neck, but actually best-end cutlets are also fine, and I always put in some shank as well, for added gelatinousness. Ideally get the butcher to slice the shank a few times through the bone, soís you can get all the flavour of it and the marrow too; otherwise, bone it out and cut the flesh into chunks, but do bury the bone in the middle of the pot.

Anyway, you want a couple of scrag chops/cutlets/slices (or equivalent) per person, plus a lambís kidney each and a few chunks of black pudding (with a nod of thanks to my friend Richard, who introduced me to that variation, ooh, twelve years ago? Fifteen, perhaps? Something on that order). Halve and trim the kidneys (halve with a v sharp knife, but snipping out the core is one of the rare kitchen tasks that are better done with scissors), peel the pudding if you want to. Peel and slice two potatoes per person, and half an onion ditto.

Butter a casserole dish, and assemble: a layer of potato slices, then onion, then meat (and the shank-bone, if applicable). Season with salt, pepper, fresh thyme, other herbs at whim. Then repeat the layers, and the seasonings till youíre almost at the top of the pot/running out of ingredients (ideally, these two coincide). Then pour over lamb or chicken stock, about a quarter-pint per person; it does not have to cover the ingredients. Finally, top with another layer of potato and drizzle over some melted butter.

Put the lid on, and put it into a low, low oven. The lower & longer you can leave it, the better: two hours at gas mark 3 is okay, but four hours at two is better, five or more at one is better yet. If your oven goes below one (look! this goes all the way down to a quarter!), try it down there all day and see how it works.

Leave it long enough and the top should crisp & brown of its own accord, even under a lid; if not, take the lid off and knock the heat up a little for another half an hour.

To go with the hotpot, here are Chazíz cabbagez (dear me, how eccentric can this get, before it just looks silly? Thus far and no further, I fancy; possibly even one step back from here):

Red cabbage - finely shred a small red cabbage (I use a mandoline for this, and always add the neatly-excised tip of one finger to the dish), and put it into a casserole dish. Add a couple of finely sliced onions, a pound of sliced cooking apples, a few glugs of cider vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of dark sugar, a lump of butter and lots of black pepper. Stick it in a low oven for a long time. Alongside the hotpot would be fine.

Savoy cabbage - slice a Savoy cabbage (with a knife, this time), and half a dozen shallots, half a dozen cloves of garlic. Put shallots and garlic into a pan with a lump of butter and a couple of glugs of water, simmer for a couple of minutes then add the cabbage. Stir it all around, stir in salt and pepper, cook over quite a high heat till it all starts to soften, then clap a lid on, turn the heat down and leave it till tender. Five or ten minutes, no more. Mix in some more butter before serving.

Note: the red cabbage keeps fine for an extra day or two; the hotpotís probably better reheated, as most stews are; the Savoy wonít take it. Itíll just go slimy, so eat it all on day one. Itís okay, itís nice.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.