2 years ago I attended Matthew’s family firework party. His large family fill his grandmother’s house and they all come together once a year to catch up and have a good time. It was the kind of gathering I am not familiar with as our family is very small. Instead, on Bonfire Night my family would go to a local pub/park/anywhere with a bonfire and stand outside in the cold with our hats and scarves on and enjoy the flames dance in front of us.
But there was one thing about this family gathering that was even more unfamiliar to me: the food. There was no hotpot in sight. Not a single bowl of mashed carrot and swede or bright purple beetroot and not a single slice of parkin. What kind of fireworks party is this?
Each and every year, these foods were the staple of Bonfire night. Hot and comforting – the perfect food to warm you up whilst you stand in the crisp, cold night. I mentioned the lack of ‘traditional’ food when I stared at the buffet table and saw lasagne and curry and I was laughed at. “You’re in the South now!”
So, as you do, I googled the traditional dishes that Lancashire has to offer and found that these meals were made due to their relatively low cost – perfect for serving at large events. With the North of England being one of the poorer areas of the country, our traditions have been formed by those who had no other choice but to budget.
And I quite like that a meal I associate with Autumn is one that costs next to nothing. A perfect homely pick-me-up that I can serve to the masses and not feel the pinch. And one that I can whip up for an evening meal and freeze the leftovers.
While this is not a traditional Lancashire Hotpot, it is a variation that is even cheaper and can be prepared with minimal effort (giving you time to play with the kids or sit down and watch a bit of telly while it’s cooking).
500g minced beef or lamb
1 large onion
2-3 large carrots (or more smaller ones)
5(ish) large potatoes
Tin of baked beans
Peas (just chuck them in)
Beef gravy granules
Fry the onion and meat in a large deep pan (if not using lean meat, drain off most of the fat once it is cooked). Add the vegetables (you can use more veg if you have it – I think it might be nice with parsnips or mushrooms) and pour hot water into the pan until it covers everything. Add enough gravy granules to make a thin gravy (however you prefer), season to taste and turn the heat down to a simmer. It should take 1-2 hours to reduce and the vegetables will be lovely and tender. Once there is not a lot of liquid, add the tin of baked beans and stir to heat through. Splash in as much Worcester sauce as you like (or whatever sauce you wish – if you like a bit of heat add some tobasco) and give it a good stir. Chop up some parsley if you have any fresh stuff lying about (I wouldn’t go running to the shops to buy any especially for this) and add them to the pot.
Serve in pasta-style bowls for a really comfy dinner.
This dish is amazing on it’s own, but if you want to add a bit more on the veg front, it’s even better with pickled beetroot. Matthew isn’t a fan, but I really am and it’s gorgeous! Or add some carrot and swede mash (you can never get too much carrot in an Autumn dish, I think!)