ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A pot that is hot (6)

Forget Bodyguard or Strictly or Grumbleton Glump, or whatever it is you people are watching these days.

The best programmes on British TV at the moment are 1986 episodes of Top of the Pops on BBC4, and old Coronation Street on ITV3. No arguments, please, this really is as good as it gets.

Yes, it's a Hotpot!
If you haven't caught up with Old Corrie, we're in about mid-1990 now, a few months after Alan Bradley got killed by the tram, and probably a year or so before Alec Gilroy's fit granddaughter shows up and is sullied by Andy McDonald.

But we get two episodes every day from a era when they were broadcast at a rate of two per week, so that 'year' will pass by pretty quickly. And there's still a long, long way to go before it descends into an unwatchable retirement home for actors who can't get any other work.

Be transported back to a simpler time. A better time. A time when people were still with us.

The true taste of Weatherfield

Anyway, so in 1990 Betty Turpin is still alive and well and serving up her trademark Hotpot in the Rovers, occasionally saying 'Give over!' to Jack Duckworth as and when the script requires. The familiarity of it all is most reassuring, much like John Peel and Janice Long introducing the latest hit from Howard Jones.

Hotpot is, of course, one of those vaguely-defined dishes that affords the chef a considerable degree of flexibility. When I was a small boy, the cafe in the local department store (Pratts in Streatham, long gone) offered a children's 'hotpot' which consisted of sausages and beans topped with mash. Delicious, and just what I needed after picking up the latest Star Wars figures.

This is a more traditional take on the Lancashire hotpot, and is lamb-based but the important thing is that it's a complete meal in one pot and everything else is up to you. Meat, veg, 'tatoes. If you don't like celery or kidney or whatever, you can exclude it as you see fit and the ghost of Betty won't come after you in the dead of the night.

(Actually, I really don't recommend losing the kidney as it really does lend the dish a richness that you'd be hard-pressed to create as easily by alternate means!)

Enjoy with a pint of Newton & Ridley's keg bitter, while considering whether Wendy Crozier is a better bet than Deirdre...

Lancashire-ish Hotpot

Ingredients - serves four:

Lamb shoulder, diced, somewhere between 1 and 1.5lbs
...and potatoes...
Lamb kidneys, 2-3, roughly chopped
Red potatoes, about 6, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
Celery, 3-4 stalks
Carrots, 4-6, chopped
Onions, 3-4, quartered

Red wine
Olive Oil
Worcestershire Sauce
Dijon Mustard
Beef stock (use Lamb stock if you can get it)
Bay leaves
Black Pepper
Garlic Salt


This is a slow-cooked dish and consequently the cooking time is several hours, but most of this is essentially hands-off, giving you time to catch up on 30-year-old television.

...bunged in a pot with some veg...
Start by seasoning the lamb and kidney with garlic salt, black pepper and and rosemary, and brown it with the onion in a frying pan, before transferring to your 'pot' - this can be one big fuck-off casserole or individual dishes.

Plonk the celery and carrot to the pot(s) with a couple of bay leaves and mix everything up. Now deglaze the pan in which you fried off the lamb with a glass of red wine, about the same amount of stock, a glug of Worcestershire Sauce and a glob of mustard.

Put the lid on, transfer to the oven and cook on a low heat (sub 100C) for at least a couple of hours.

Once your kitchen is filling with the big lamby, kidneyesque aromas, it's time to start on the spuds. Fry them until they start to gently brown, in a mixture of oil and butter, sprinkling in some garlic salt half-way through the process. You don't want to overcook them, so take them off the heat before they get too crisped up.

...and cooked for a long time.
Now remove the hotpot from the oven - you shouldn't need to top up the liquid level - and layer the slices of fried potato on top, ensuring everything is covered. Ideally it'll be a couple of slices deep and come close to the brim.

Add a few knobs of butter and a sprinkling of black pepper and pop it back in the oven, this time sans lid, and turn the heat up to around 200C. Let it cook for a further 20 minutes or until the potatoes on top have gone nice and crispy.

And there we have it. Enjoy.

Love, the late Betty Turpin xx

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