Now for a local favourite where I come from, great comfort food for Lancastrians over many a long century, along with the traditional accompaniment of picked red cabbage.
Truth be told it’s some years since I cooked one, so I consulted several sources to find the original, authentic recipe – one without any messing about, no stupid or superfluous ingredients. There’s seldom a dish that hasn’t be screwed up or translated into something it was never intended to be, so going back to basics, using top notch ingredients and doing everything from scratch struck me as the perfect antidote.
I went to Layer Marney lamb to get the best sheep meat, though sadly it was beyond the mutton season (mutton being scarce to the point of invisibility these days) so lamb had to suffice – neck fillet, a few best end of neck cutlets, plus meaty neck bones to make the stock.
The result was simply wonderful, and would be as nothing were the lamb fat not mingling with the thickened stock to add a meaty zest to each mouthful.
The recipe below is the one found at The Guardian, to which I’ve added just a few minor tweaks. The pictures and the cooking is all my own!
4–6 best-end or middle-neck lamb or mutton cutlets
400g diced lamb or mutton neck fillet or shoulder
Flour, sugar, salt and pepper, to dust
3 largeish floury potatoes, such as maris piper
Few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
2-3 bay leaves
2 onions, sliced
500ml lamb stock
20g butter, melted, plus extra to grease
Preheat the oven to 170C. Dust the meat lightly with flour and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly.
Butter a high-sided casserole dish and arrange about a third of the potatoes in the bottom. Season them and sprinkle with a little thyme. Top with the meat and bay leaf and season in the same way, followed by the onions, seasoned in the same way.
Arrange the remaining potato slices on top of the onions like overlapping fish scales, and season these with salt and pepper. Pour enough stock over the potatoes to just come up to the base of the topping (take a piece off to see this better), then brush them with melted butter.
Cover and bake for two hours (two and a half hours for mutton), then uncover and bake for another 30 minutes, until the potatoes are golden and crisp. Serve with pickled red cabbage.