Adventures in Lancashire Hotpot
I like cooking for others even more than I like cooking itself, which is why I asked my friend if he had a request when I invited him for Sunday dinner. I prompted him with suggestions of potatoes and stew and soup. (The weather in spite of Summer has been cold and rainy.)
“You could try to make stew with potatoes in it,” he suggested, and sent along a link to the Wikipedia entry on Lancashire Hotpot. I loved the idea for three reasons:
- I could consult my latest frivolous cookbook purchase: Great British Food. Lancashire Hotpot is on page 108.
- Ever since I had super-thin sliced potato gratin when I was last at Schneeweiss, I’ve been meaning to prepare a dish featuring super-thin sliced potato.
Lancashire Hotpot uses more or less the same ingredients as Irish Stew, but instead of being cooking on the stove top, Lancashire Hotpot is cooked in a low oven, with the potatoes layered on top. As a result, the meat and vegetables get tender and stay moist while the potatoes soften, but the sauce never thickens. Oh, and the recipe calls for English pale ale instead of Irish stout, of course.
Saturday morning, I set out on bike in the unpredictable weather to buy the ingredients. The stew is simple enough, but I also bought extra vegetables, some flowers, and some bread and dips. I literally lost track of it all. I stopped by my office afterwards and discovered that I had somehow lost the lamb. I had to return to the market to either find it or buy more.
I had chatted it up in my broken German with the ladies who sold me the lamb, and I knew they were the only ones with lamb or mutton in the entire market. I was not looking forward to returning and having to explain with embarrassment that I had misplaced the damned meat, so first I asked around at the other stands I had shopped at.
Mein schlechtes Deutsch
[My crappy German]
“Um, komische Frage,” I began, sheepishly, “aber haben Sie eine Lammkeule gefunden? Ich hab eins vermisst.” [Weird question, but have you found a leg of lamb? I have one that I miss.] I meant to say that I lost one, but I always confuse “vermissen” and “verlieren”.
A sharp laugh was the reply. The fruit-stand man then turned and yelled to his coworkers, “Hallo! Haben wir eine Lammkeule dabei?” He looked at me. “Putenkeule, ja. Lamm, nein.” [Turkey leg, yes. Lamb, no.]
“Ha. Ha.” I retorted.
The next place I checked was the Turkish dips stand. They had it, tucked into their fridge, none the worse for wear. Hazzah!
No English Ale in the Land of Beer
Two young men at Galeria Kaufhof tried very hard to help me find a replacement beer when it turned out they didn’t have any English beers at all. I thought I’d have to use pilsner. I then impulse bought an expensive English-style German-made gin for no practical reason.
Kristin got the idea that an Irish pub might sell English ale, “But we might have to make the sacrifice and have a beer before they’ll agree to give you some.” We bit the bullet and each had a pint of Guinness at five in the afternoon. They didn’t have Bass as I’d hoped so I settled for Kilkenny. (Shh, don’t tell the Brits I used Irish ale in the English stew!)
“That’s a medical term, by the way”
Usually when I make something for the first time, I have some idea what it should turn out like since I’ve been served it before. Since I had never seen, eaten or even heard of Lancashire Hotpot before, I asked my friend, “You tell me, does it look right?”
“Oh! It looks good, but your general cooking experience probably makes you a better judge than me,” he said.
So I looked at it critically and said, “Well, it looks cooked, at least.” He laughed because the comment reminded him of this other English export: