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?
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.
During the 19th century, in particular, oysters were the affordable street food of choice (in the year 1864, over 700 million oysters were consumed in London alone). But due to over-fishing, oysters became the high-end delicacy we know today.
If you like seafood, check out our blog on where to buy the best fresh fish in Manchester.
The Perfect Dish for a Cold Manchester Day
So, why do we love our Lancashire Hotpot so much in Manchester?
Its simplicity means that a delicious Lancashire Hotpot can be made on a budget. This was a dish for working people and you won’t need to break the bank to buy enough ingredients for a generous serving.
You don’t need to have a wealth of cooking knowledge to prepare the dish, and, once in the oven, you’re free to relax and get on with other things. You’ll also get plenty of nourishment from a Lancashire Hotpot.
In an era in which we’re repeatedly encouraged to reduce the number of processed foods in our diets, here’s a meal that’s packed with nutritional value and made only of a few fresh ingredients.
But perhaps more than anything, we love Lancashire Hotpot because of its place in the story of our city. It’s been a staple of the Mancunian diet for a long time!
Travel through the city and you’ll find pub after pub serving hotpots on their menus. If you find yourself caught up in one of our rain showers, take the opportunity to find the nearest pub and order a restorative portion of Lancashire Hotpot.
The Best Place in Manchester to Eat Lancashire Hotpot
If you want to enjoy a real manchester experience you should try Annies on Old Bank Street. It’s our top choice for ordering a Lancashire Hotpot when in Manchester.
Owned by Jennie McAlpine, a star of the legendary Manchester soap opera Coronation Street, Annies offers a cosy setting and an array of classic British food.
In addition to an out-of-this-world hotpot, head chef Richard Moore includes many other local specialities on his menu, from sausage & mash to Bury Black Pudding, and steak & ale pie.
Those wishing to explore English culinary traditions further can also enjoy Afternoon Tea at Annies.
How to Prepare a Lancashire Hotpot at Home
Decided to spend a night in, or just love the thrill of cooking new dishes? Preparing a Lancashire Hotpot at home is low on effort, big on reward.
You have a wealth of recipes to choose from with almost every British celebrity chef having given their own version of the Lancashire Hotpot.
Excellent traditional takes on the stew can be found over on Kitchen Sanctuary or at BBC Good Food. And The Guardian’s (another Manchester institution) How to Cook the Perfect Lancashire Hotpot makes for great reading.
And if you like testing the recipes of the famous tv chefs, you can find Jamie Oliver’s take on a lamb hotpot here.
This brings to an end our guide to the Lancashire Hotpot, but sign up for our newsletter below and we’ll keep you updated with our latest foodie news.
If you have any questions for us about this blog or any of our foodie walking tours of Manchester, get in touch.
This post was originally written in June 2020 and updated in March 2022.
Vegan Manchester: The Low-Down on the City’s Vegan Scene
The Veggie Capital of the UK…
In 1847 the Vegetarian Society was founded in Manchester by the aptly named Reverend Cowherd. It was the first organisation for the promotion of meat-free living in the UK, and one of the first of its kind in the world. Since then, Manchester’s veggie credentials have gotten stronger and stronger.
The vibrancy of the city’s vegetarian and vegan culture should really come as no surprise. After all, Mancunians are famed for creatively pushing the envelope, and the city has a stellar reputation when it comes to ethical causes.
(We even have the People’s History Museum, which is dedicated to the ideas of equality, social justice, cooperation, and crafting a fairer world for all.)
But sitting harmoniously alongside good ethical credentials, vegan diners want to be assured of awesome food, don’t they? Fortunately, Manchester’s dozens of veggie and vegan restaurants offer tons of exciting, delicious choices.
In fact, it was this variety that inspired us to design our own Vegan Manchester Food Tour. Whether your visiting Manchester for a short stay, or are a local hoping to find new culinary experiences, the eight tastings included in our tour are sure to provide something for everyone.
Veganism in Britain: A Food Revolution!
Veganism has been positively booming in recent years. At the beginning of 2022, over 600,000 people signed up to take part in the UK’s annual Veganuary, where participants are encouraged to go vegan for the month of January.
The growth of plant-based diets, though, is not only linked to short-term initiatives. The long-term growth of veganism within the UK is no less impressive. In 2014, around 0.25% of the British population were vegan; today, 1.16% identify as vegan! And 42% of vegans polled said that 2018 was the year they adopted the diet.
Yes, an increasingly health-conscious and green-focused British public has embraced a plant-based lifestyle like never before. For foodies, this means one really important thing: lots of more choice when heading out for dinner!
The Manchester Vegan Scene
From high-end restaurants to street food trucks, Manchester has a wealth of vegan options!
Bundobust in the city centre has been producing some of the most amazing Indian vegan flavours for years. Bringing together flavoursome, colourful vegetarian Indian dishes, and refreshing local craft beers, Bundobust has found a winning formula! With food this good and an ace atmosphere, you might end up becoming a regular.
Vegan pizzas are all the rage at Four Side Pizza. Detroit style pizzas sold whole, or by the slice, and everything is 100% vegan! The concept of vegan pizzas has had its fair share of doubters over the years, but you can be assured of a tasty meal at Four Side Pizza – they’re the best at what they do. As former Manchester resident Friedrich Engels would no doubt remind you, it’s all a matter of supply and demand. With veganism expanding as it is, the quality of veggie goodies just gets better.
At Black Leaf, they’re all about the use of seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients to make really exciting plant-based dishes. You can always expect plates that are as nutritious as they are delicious, so you come away feeling full and revitalised. This is vegan cuisine at its healthy, unprocessed best.
Over at V Revolution, meanwhile, the order of the day is comfort food! V Revolution owner Dom Moss and his staff are constantly pushing the boundaries. So a vegan burger or portion of vegan Mac & Cheese will never carry the rich, heartiness you crave? Think again. At V Revolution you’ll find a menu full of decadent, classic pub dishes, all prepared totally free of animal products. A great choice for those who’ve recently switched to a plant-based diet and miss some of their old go-to dishes.
Explore more veggie eateries over at Happy Cow.
Yes, Manchester is most definitely a city celebrating vegan food….
So, why not join us for our ultimate vegan food walking tour. On the tour we’ll explore some of Manchester’s back streets, taking in the stories and legends that make this city so great.
Led by one of our local vegan food experts, every tour will take in six different vegan stops and over eight different vegan tastings.
Meet the chefs and producers, hear their stories, and share their love and devotion for a vegan Manchester.
Not Just for the Vegan Foodie
While we’ve been discussing our vegan food tour and the veggie scene we love, we are always keen for as many non-vegans to come along and see what all the fuss is about. We’re not trying to convert anyone but if we can introduce a few new flavours and ingredients to your life then we’re doing our job.
The tour is every Thursday and Sunday starting at 11.30 am and it takes about 3 hours. We keep the group to a maximum of ten.
If you’d prefer your own private vegan food tour for just your group, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, you can explore our full selection of Manchester foodie walking tours on our website.
A Manchester Food Tour in the Northern Quarter
A Manchester food tour in the Northern Quarter is the perfect way to explore this great city. But what is the Northern Quarter, and what makes it so good for a food tour?
Manchester’s Northern Quarter sits in the middle of Piccadilly and Ancoats. In recent years it has become the city’s trendiest area. A wealth of bars and restaurants have taken over. What was once a forgotten part of Manchester is now a must-visit.
The Northern Quarter is the creative heart of Manchester, and it offers dining experiences and activities suitable for all budgets. But more than the range of choices on offer or the wallet-friendly restaurants and pubs, the atmosphere of the Northern Quarter is what makes it so special.
As you explore this historic district, a sense of tradition and community spirit is always there.
If you’re interested in getting to know this area for yourself, why not join Manchester Bites for our Canals to Canapes Walking Food Tour in the Northern Quarter?
The Story of Manchester’s Northern Quarter
As with so many stories from Manchester’s past, we must begin with the Industrial Revolution, which was spearheaded in Manchester. The city’s first cotton mill was opened in 1783 in what would later become known as the Northern Quarter.
By 1853 this area had 108 mills and was a major hub of activity – the area was right bang in the centre of the industrialisation of Britain, a process that would, in time, affect the entire world.
People lived within very close proximity to each other. Freidrich Engels painted a bleak picture of the area, describing it as “dirty, old and tumble-down” in his work The condition of the working class in England. But for all its squalor, the area was hugely significant.
Manchester at this time was the engine room of the British Empire, and it was the working people of Manchester and similar industrial towns that kept everything in motion.
During Victorian times, the area became a popular entertainment spot. Tib Street was famous for its pet shops, and people would stroll up and down the road looking at all the animals on display.
The shops of the Northern Quarter would stay open late into the night, and with time the area came to be regarded as a bohemian centre.
In this cultural landscape, the Northern Quarter also gained a reputation for being a hotbed of political activity.
Manchester has long had a reputation for fighting for social justice and the Northern Quarter was the perfect place for preachers, workers, and political activists to make speeches to sympathetic (and occasionally hostile) crowds.
We strongly recommend checking out the People’s History Museum for anyone interested in Manchester’s political history.
The Decline Of The Northern Quarter
It was in the 90’s that the council devised the name Northern Quarter. Creative industries were encouraged to the In the wake of the senseless destruction of WWI, many of Manchester’s industries started to collapse.
Then after WW2, Manchester’s priorities had to be concentrated on rebuilding parts of the town destroyed by bombing and the Northern Quarter was largely neglected.
For much of the 20th century, the area’s story was economic decline. The factories and shops were closed to be replaced by cheap housing. And yet, the rough-and-ready charm of the place was what would eventually guarantee its revival and renovation.
In the 1990s, the Manchester music scene brought newfound attention to many of the neighbourhoods in Manchester that needed some love. And none benefited quite like the Northern Quarter. Suddenly the area was brimful with clubs, trendy boutiques, record shops, and cheap cafes.
The multicultural nature of the area would also lead to the opening of several restaurants specialising in international foods, such as the legendary This & That Cafe, which does some of the best curries in the whole city to this very day.
What Makes The Northern Quarter So Good For A Food Tour?
In the 90s, the local council devised the name Northern Quarter. Creative industries were encouraged to the area. Design businesses, architects, and start-ups made the Northern Quarter their home. The district recaptured some of that bohemian charm that had defined it during the Victorian period.
With such industries came great cafes and restaurants. What had been a quiet, forgotten part of Manchester was re-born.
The Northern quarter now has a plethora of food businesses to choose from. Asian, American, African, or old-fashioned, no-frills British food is all within a short stroll, and much more besides.
The buildings have been relatively untouched since the 18th century. So much so that the Northern Quarter is often used as the backdrop for films and tv series.
When you walk the streets of the Northern Quarter, you really get a sense of Manchester’s distinctive character; the architecture, eateries, cultural spaces, and, most importantly, people provide continuity, a connection to the area’s earliest days.
This mixture of the old and new makes the Northern Quarter the perfect place to enjoy an unforgettable Manchester food tour.
If you have any questions concerning our tours or services, please feel free to get in touch.
Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. And that Dylan concert.
We are lucky to have numerous historical buildings in Manchester city centre. One such building that you can visit is Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. Built in 1856 this grade 2 listed building stands on the site of the Peterloo Massacre. Originally the building was used as a meeting place for the local business community.
It had a vital role in the repealing of the corn laws. The corn laws meant that imports of grain, corn and wheat were taxed. This meant that landowners in Britain could charge a higher price for their corn. As a result it became more expensive to eat. Over time many urban centres such as Manchester rose up and rebelled against the law. The Free Trade Hall was Manchester’s epicentre for anti corn law demonstrations.
Fast forward to December 1940. Manchester was under attack from the German Luftwaffe. The Free Trade Hall suffered great damage. Only the frame of the building survived. In the 1950’s the hall was re-built behind the original outer wall.
A centre of Manchester’s music scene.
The Free Trade Hall became home to Manchester’s Halle Orchestra. In fact it continued to be their home right up until 1996. That is when the Bridgewater Hall took over. It wasn’t just classical concerts that the hall held. One of the most famous episodes in the hall’s history came in 1966.
Bob Dylan was touring the UK and at the time was causing quite some controversy. Dylan was using an electric guitar which was seen by many of his fans as distasteful. At a gig in the Free Trade Hall on 16th May, Dylan was heckled and called “Judas” by a concert goer. Many fans started to slow clap and some even walked out. Dylan kept going. He knew what he was doing was changing the face of music at the time. In 1998 Dylan released the recording of the gig. Manchester bands such as The Fall, The Smiths and Joy Division all say they were heavily influenced by this event.
Today the Free Trade Hall is a Radisson Hotel. You can still go in and admire the stunning entrance hall and enjoy a drink at the bar.
If you are interested to know more about Manchester and it’s incredible history, book a tour with us. Our food tours take in some of Manchester’s best local bites as well as a wealth of history and culture. To book a tour go to www.manchesterbites.com
Vimto: A Manchester Innovation
Manchester has a long history when it comes to inventing things. The computer, graphite, commercial railways, indie music, football…the list goes on and on. One of our food and drink gifts to the world has been Vimto.
If you’ve never tried it, Vimto is a fruit-flavoured soft drink with true cult status. It contains grapes, berries and blackcurrants (and also, admittedly, lots of sugar).
In the UK we have a similar drink called Ribena. If you speak to anyone from Manchester you’ll realise that we are If Ribena is the UK’s most iconic berry flavoured drink, Vimto is the stylish person’s alternative choice.
Preferred in Manchester to just about any other soft drink, Vimto’s reputation across the rest of the UK tends to be defined by people who haven’t tried Vimto, and people who love Vimto and champion it at every opportunity!
A History of Vimto
At the start of the 20th century, a man called John Nichols used to sell herbs, spices and medicines in Manchester. He developed the recipe for what he called Vim Tonic. It was originally a medicinal drink but came to be regarded as a soft drink in 1913 and with that, the name was shortened to Vimto.
Due to the popular temperance movement of the period, which encouraged people to lead teetotal lifestyles, soft drinks were all the rage. And Vimto successfully made a name for itself within this culture.
It wasn’t, though, until the 1990s that Vimto really established itself as the trendy person’s booze-free tipple of choice. British culture in the 90s was defined by a slightly unruly, anti-establishment attitude. With Brit Pop acts like Blur, Pulp, and Oasis (yes, another Manchester export!) at the top of the charts, and anarchical TV shows like TFI Friday and The Word being watched by millions, anything too middle-of-the-road was, well, a bit naff.
Well, the marketing guys at Vimto had their finger on the pulse because the brand enlisted the perfect representative to advertise their brand: the slightly rude cartoon poet, Purple Ronnie. Created by writer and illustrator Giles Andreae, Purple Ronnie became a rogueish, much-loved figure on British TV, famous for his love of partying and innuendo-laden poems. One of his rhymes went as follows:
Vimto is a smashing drink
So why not have a slurp?
It’s full of fizzy bubbles
To make your bottom burp
In 2003, Purple Ronnie walked off into the sunset and Vimto adopted the new slogan “Shlurpling the Purple”.
Vimto in the Middle East, and Around the World
Over the years the popularity of Vimto has gone from the Manchester streets to all around the world. An interesting tale relates to the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. During Ramadan, the drink becomes incredibly popular. This is probably due to the high sugar count helping people through their daily fasts. The Arabian Peninsula is the biggest foreign market and sales boom during the holy month, with the drink being the biggest selling beverage in certain countries.
Vimto’s popularity in this part of the world stretches back an impressive 80 years, and that popularity only seems to be growing.
Variations of the Drink
The good people at Vimto have never rested on their laurels, and throughout the drink’s history, many different varieties have been introduced. The standard Vimto is sold in both pre-mixed carbonated and cordial versions, with the latter being the more popular choice. In the winter months, the cordial version is often added to hot water to create a sweet, warming drink.
Through the decades Vimto has also released jelly babies, ice lollies, and other sweets featuring the distinctive brand flavour. And the drinks range often makes room for limited edition guest flavours, such as Cherry Vimto and Strawberry Vimto.
For those who haven’t been inspired by Vimto’s early temperance movement origins, you can use the drink as an inspiration and make a pretty moreish cocktail known as a Cheeky Vimto. Although the cocktail doesn’t feature actual Vimto as an ingredient, the blending of port wine and Blue WKD creates an alcoholic drink that captures something of Vimto’s unique berry blast.
Finally, if it’s sunny out, you may want to toss Vimto into a blender with ice cream and milk to create an indulgent Vimto milkshake.
The Vimto Statue
Anyone wanting to explore the culture surrounding Vimto in Manchester today should head to Granby Row in Manchester city centre where they’ll find a massive wooden sculpture of a Vimto bottle. This massive tribute to a Manchester classic is always a popular stop on our food tours of Manchester.
Would you like to learn more about Manchester and its incredible food scene? Are you looking for the best things to do in Manchester? If so, book a food tour with us and let us show you our city!
If you have any questions or comments regarding our tours, please get in touch.