What I love most about England (and I love a lot of things about England) are the footpaths. If you like hiking (rambling in the UK vernacular), this is the country for you.
Long before there was a network of paved roads in England, footpaths developed as the routes to market and church for the villagers. The footpaths are still there today, centuries later — maintained by protective legislation, village councils, and local residents. In other words, if a footpath happens to traverse your farm, garden, field or drive, you MUST maintain it for anyone who cares to use it. (“Keep out” and “no trespassing” signs are not permitted). For many, particularly farmers, this means building stiles, gates or stairs to give access through fenced property. Whew! That’s a lot of work.
But there are benefits of so many well-maintained English footpaths. You can walk almost anywhere via these paths. Simply pick up a suitable map (e.g., Ordnance Survey map series at 2.5 inches to the mile) and select a destination.
It could be 2 miles away or 20; your map will guide you to your destination via the footpaths. Don’t worry if you run into a house, field of cows, herd of sheep, church, or a business; the ancient footpaths give you the right of passage.
I walked at least 2,000 miles of these footpaths while living in England. So, I was not exactly a novice — even by the standards of England’s avid walkers — and was becoming fairly confident in my trekking abilities. Perhaps this was why I got in a bit over my head when I selected a 15-mile walk to the peak of Skiddaw in England’s Lake District, just north of Lancashire. What I failed to consider was the 3,000-foot vertical distance, which is not included in the 15 miles and was typically not a factor in the English Midlands where I lived.
You can see what’s coming next here, can’t you? The walk nearly did me in. The way up was fine, but slipping and sliding down icy scree on the way back was another story. I even entertained the possibility of sleeping on the mountainside halfway back. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that we had consumed all our rations.
When I made it down Skiddaw and to the village of Keswick, I don’t know what was happier – my tortured feet, cramping legs or my growling stomach. When I reached Keswick and a local pub, I would have been happy with beans-on-toast (not my favorite meal), but, like a beautiful dream, I found myself with a Lancashire Hotpot. At the time, it was my first, but certainly has not been my last. It is now a winter favorite.
Lancashire Hotpot, originally from Lancashire, but a feature in the Lake District north of there, is quintessential comfort food – crispy potatoes and steaming lamb. It alone would have been worth another trip to the Lake District and perhaps even another trek up Skiddaw. But the Lake District is remarkable either way — with or without the Hotpot.
Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
1 tablespoon oil, olive
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 tablespoon oil, canola
1 pound lamb, shoulder chops
3 pounds lamb, neck, in 1 inch slices*
1 cup wine, red
4 cups water
2 tablespoons rosemary, fresh
1/2 teaspoon pepper, black
1 teaspoon salt
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
8 potatoes, Maris Piper or russet, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
* In the U.S., you’ll need to ask your butcher for lamb neck. Any butcher that cuts from whole carcasses should be able to save you some neck. Ask them to cut the neck in one-inch slices.
1. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven. Add chopped onion and sweat until translucent. Add garlic and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove onion/garlic from pot and set aside in a bowl.
2. Add 1T vegetable oil to Dutch oven. Bring heat to high.
Salt and pepper the lamb. Brown lamb neck “chops” and lamb shoulder chops in batches to avoid crowding. There should be at least one inch of space between pieces of meat to allow good browning. Cook lamb until browned on both sides. Remove lamb from pan and add to onion/garlic mix in the bowl you have set aside.
3. Deglaze pan with red wine. Bring red wine to a boil while scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return onion/garlic/lamb to pan. Add 4 cups water to pan. Add fresh rosemary, salt and black pepper.
Cover and simmer on stove top (or cook in oven at 325 deg F) for about 2 1/2 hours – or until meat falls easily from the bone.
Remove from heat and let cool until you can handle the meat.
4. Remove meat from the pot, reserving the stock. Debone meat. Return meat and reserved stock to the Dutch oven.
Peel and slice carrots. Add carrots and Worcestershire Sauce to Dutch oven.
Bring to a simmer. The stew should be thick rather the soupy. If you have too much stock, skim the stock until you can see the meat/carrots at the surface.
5. Preheat oven to 350 deg F. While meat and carrots are returning to a simmer, peel about 8 potatoes. If you are making this in the UK, I prefer Maris Pipers; in the U.S., russets will do fine. Slice potatoes and toss with 2 T olive oil, salt and pepper.
Add potatoes to the surface of the stew in concentric layers. Salt and pepper lightly. Cover Dutch oven. (You may switch to a baking dish rather than the Dutch oven at this point. In the photo above, I used a pie dish – covered with foil during the first part of baking)
6. Bake 1 hour in oven covered. This will cook carrots and cook potatoes until nearly tender.
Uncover Dutch oven. Raise oven temperature to 400 deg F. Cook lamb/potatoes uncovered about 1/2 hour more or until potatoes are browned.
Remove from oven and serve.
7. DO-AHEAD DIRECTIONS: Cook lamb and carrots through step 4. Refrigerate or freeze until needed. Thaw in refrigerator on day of service. Continue beginning with step 5.
Shame on me! I’ve never been to the Lake District proper. And I’ve never had Lancashire hotpot! I bet it tasted especially good after that descent.
Funny. When I lived there, people were surprised at how many places I explored. The difference is that I knew I was only going to be there 4 year at most, so I tried to pack everything in.
In any case, I suggest you get to Cumbria ASAP. It is fabulously (is that a word?) beautiful!
What great information, I never knew about the footpaths. It’s now on my list of things to do. I can feel how wonderful the lamb was by your description of hunger…also, lov eth edo ahead steps on your recipe!
Thanks Salty Fig – And, yes, the footpaths are a great resource. Wish they had them in the U.S.,but somehow I don’t think the idea of people walking through backyards here would sell very well 🙂
When I think of England, I never think of beautiful sweeping vistas like these! What a wonderful treasure, these ancient walking paths. And with our sub-zero temps today, that recipe has my mouth watering — just give me a big ol’ bowl of comfort food!! ~ Kat
Yes, it is a beautiful country. I found it surprising that the UK, being relatively small, has such diverse terrain.
Beautiful view of the valley from up there, but the terrain looks tough! I remember a terrific lamb dish you made the first night I visited with Deb’s family — made with lamb neck. Was it Lancashire Hotpot? It was warm and tasty…and from that awesome, toasty Aga.
Yes, that was it. I made it for many visitors because it seemed so very English.
Deliiiiiicious!!! I love dishes like this. My father use to say, the most flavorful meat is the neck. I have never cooked nor recall eating it. What is your opinion?
Your father was right Fae. Bones that have a mix of meat, bone, and cartilage have the most flavor in a stock/sauce – as each component contributes different types of collagen and different flavors. I only add the shoulder chops to get a bit more meat at the end.
You will find some new recipes that use only stew meat. While this provides more meat, you miss some of the flavors from the neck. On the other hand, you if you use just neck, you get great flavor but are a bit shy on the meat.
Very nice post and tempting recipe. I have memories of Lancashire hotpot, but most of them concern how badly it was made. It needs to be home made and your recipe shows it how it should be. I don’t envy the climb, but the pictures are top:)
My recipe is modified from many of the traditional recipes. Usually, the meat and potatoes are all combined in a pot and cooked together. While this is easier and allowed you to pop your Hotpot in the Aga and come back 3 hours later, it has two problems. 1) If you use lamb neck (which I think is essential), cooking the meat first allows you to remove the small bones. 2) Cooking potatoes later allows you to cook the potatoes just until done – not overcooked or soggy.If you try it, do let me know how you think it compares.
We were lucky the day of the climb – a beautiful crisp winter day with great views.
What a great post! I knew that England contained many beautiful landscapes but had no idea they were so accessible — well, accessible for most. It’s wonderful, too, that travelers on footpaths enjoy a sort of “right of way” across the countryside.
In a few minutes, I’ll be clearing the season’s first appreciable snowfall from the walk in front of my home and those of my neighbors. It sure would be nice to come indoors to find a Lancashire Hotpot in the oven, just about ready to eat. Now that would be some reward! Oddly enough, in one of my ethnic markets, I’ve seen lamb neck on display. I don’t recall much about it other than that, so, I’ll have to do a little searching to find it again. I think your recipe is well worth the hunt.
I’ve been on those footpaths around Cumbria!!! We got lost on those footpaths – they go on for miles and miles, and you think you’re lost, and then here comes a little man with a walking stick who obviously knows where he’s going… It’s also the lakes district where I had the best sticky toffee pudding ever!!!
Oh, we’ll need to compare when I get my sticky toffee recipe posted. I searched the UK for ages to find the perfect one! Such a great dessert isn’t it?
My Dad said your day sounded like his kind of heaven
Your Dad is a smart man 🙂
Such an interesting post about the preserved foot paths. I’m sure you really welcomed a hot meal after that walk. Your recipe sounds wonderful.
Yes, the footpaths are really a national treasure. If you wanted, you could walk from London to the north of Scotland on them. My goal is to finish the Coastal footpath before I die. I’d better live a long time:-)
These are some gorgeous pictures and thanks for taking us to your journey! And your hotpot and lamb chops looks delicious. 😛
Thanks so much Amy 🙂
These are beautifull pictures
I also love the recipe !
Thanks SC. We were lucky to get such great views for those photos.
I hope to try these paths and food paths some day.
Another beautiful illustrated culinary travelogue! I am inspired to try this wonderful looking comfort food.
Thanks Kaja – Yes, the ultimate comfort food 🙂
I hope all is well and you are surviving your crazy winter weather…..
Fabulous post! One of the things I miss most about the UK is the incredible network of footpaths, and I always make the most of them when I go home to visit family and friends. Your hotpot looks wonderful too – I always add some kidney to mine, which tastes really good too.
Yes, I so love the footpaths. When we moved there, I found them such a perfect way to get to know the countryside where we lived. You see so much more when you walk through a village than when you drive through.
And I’ll have to try the kidneys. I’ve seen that in a number of recipes.
What country are you living in now?
I’m currently based in the US (California), but am lucky enough to be able to spend some time in the UK each year too. There is some spectacular scenery here, but we really do miss being able to access it as we can at home. I think it’s very difficult for people here to even understand the concept of footpaths, let alone the right to roam!
Where are you from originally?
And I noticed that you mention an Aga in an earlier comment – do you have one? I miss my Aga too…!!
I grew up in the NY city metro area, but I’ve lived all over. We lived in England for a couple of years recently and loved it. I miss it too. In fact, I’m here now visiting friends (and golfing in the freezing weather). Cold and all, I’m happy as a clam to be here.
I hope that you have a wonderful trip with your friends – and that you’re able to enjoy some early spring sunshine before you leave!
No longer have an Aga. Loved it in the winter since we lived in a drafty old converted barn.
What stunning photos and what stunning food! So pleased to have stumbled upon your blog!
Thanks much AYDIE. What a great name. Story of my life as well. Good thing I was blessed with good genes or I’d be 300 pounds 🙂
Haha seems to be a trait amongst the other food bloggers I’ve come across too! We’re all so lucky!!