Best Manchester Eats: The Lancashire Hotpot

A lot of guests on our Manchester food tours ask us what are the most famous foods from Manchester? What is the typical cuisine of the region? 

Well, given Manchester’s famously – or, perhaps, infamously – drizzly weather, it should come as no surprise that we enjoy warming, hearty dishes. 

Rich Bury Black Puddings are served at breakfast. Eccles Cakes make a fine accompaniment to a hot cup of tea. And an indulgent Manchester Egg is just the thing after a couple of pints!

But perhaps most beloved of all is the Lancashire Hotpot. This irresistible dish is so simple to prepare and makes a perfect choice on a cold night. 

The History Of The Lancashire Hotpot

First, the name. Though Manchester today has its own council area, the city has historically formed part of the county of Lancashire. A fact witnessed in the city’s sports, with Lancashire Cricket Club playing their home games just south of the city.

Hotpot is cloaked in a little more mystery. Does it refer to the pot or the style of food being prepared? The famous 1861 cookbook Mrs Beetons Cookery Book contains a recipe for a simple stew called ‘Hotch Potch’ and it’s likely that hotpot similarly refers to any straightforward stew that can be cooked in a single pot. 

The Lancashire Hotpot, like so many Manchester traditions, is bound to the city’s history of work. Before industrialisation, many families would work at home spinning thread. A meal that could be left to slow-cook above a fire was most convenient. 

Following industrialisation, this characteristic of the Lancashire Hotpot became even more important. A workforce was now leaving home for several hours at a time. The hotpot was a perfect meal as you could leave it on low heat to cook while you were out.

Hungry workers would race home at the end of a shift and find a hearty dinner awaiting them. Presumably, their home was also filled with the pleasing aroma of the stew. 

Learn more about the city’s starring role in Britain’s Industrial Revolution with our From Canals To Canapés Manchester Food Tour

So What Is A Lancashire Hotpot?

Lancashire hotpot
Lancashire hotpot

Well, three ingredients are essential for the Lancashire Hotpot: lamb, onions, and potato. Lamb refers to the meat of a young sheep, though mutton (cheaper cuts from older sheep) was traditionally used.

The lamb is slowly stewed along with onions, stock, and some flour to thicken. Thinly sliced potatoes are placed on top to act as a lid, sealing in the meat and veg. The dish is then cooked in the oven for an hour or so until ready.

Couldn’t be any simpler! Although you will today find plenty of variation from the original three-ingredient recipe. 

Carrots are often added to the stew, as are leeks and turnips. Historically, lamb’s kidneys would also be added, though this is less common today. 

The topping is also sometimes varied, with a pastry lid added instead of potatoes.

One notable absence from contemporary recipes is oysters. In early versions of the hotpot, oysters regularly formed part of the mix. By the 18th and 19th centuries in England, oysters were hugely popular and were added to all kinds of recipes