Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Diet for a Hot Planet

Last week I finished up reading Diet for a Hot Planet, and boy did I learn a LOT. It's a book I'd recommend to anyone interested in climate change, because the production and distribution of our food is responsible for 31% or more of global warming effects world-wide. But as someone who's been a locavore for several years now, it was a book of special interest.

I became a locavore originally to reduce the fuels used up in transportation of my foods. It's been suggested to me in the past that this is misguided at best. This book backs me up to a certain extent, but also shows that distance travelled is really only part of the emissions equation. One London study found that production accounted for about half of the emissions related to the foods studied; transportation produced about one fifth.

Before I delve into some of Ms. Lappé's information, let me point out that everything I'm about to write here applies to whole foods. I’m not talking about the evils of packaging, or junk food or fast food. To consider the impact of these issues, you'd need to add a whole other layer of bad, bad, bad.

As a matter of fact, I'm not even going to start with meat. Let's talk about conventionally farmed vegetables and fruits. The best-known difference between conventional and organic produce is the use of pesticides and fertilizers. What you may not know is that, while both are made from petroleum, they also use a large quantity of energy – in the form of fossil fuels – in production. In the U.S. it's made using natural gas; in China, coal.

I think most of us also know that soil is poorer with the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Healthy soil serves as a carbon sink, absorbing carbon and storing it. In unhealthy soil, stored carbon is released as carbon dioxide.

Additionally, chemical fertilizers break down and release nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with the potential to produce 296 times the global warming as the same amount of carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide is the third-most significant greenhouse gas (measured in carbon dioxide equivalence). At 7.9% of all total emissions (again, by equivalence), it's not the biggest piece of the pie by a long shot – but it's still an important part of the puzzle.

Next, transportation. This is where a locavore focuses their energy. As mentioned earlier, it's likely that this is an important consideration in choosing "cool foods," but it's not the biggest. As always when considering food miles, you'll want to look at all the layers inherent in production – as the author puts it, "the food's inputs – not just the distance from the field to the plate." Fertilizer from far-flung parts of the world, feed for the animals that produced your meat and dairy products. And if it's a processed food, multiply that by each ingredient.

It's also worth noting that food is probably travelling further than you knew. In some places you will see an "average figure" of 1,500 miles that food travels – but that's related to one very limited study of a selection of foods travelling within the United States to the Chicago Terminal Market only. Ms. Lappé's best guess is that "the average food miles for typical food consumed in the United States is most likely significantly higher." (Emphasis hers.) In fact, a California study she cites elsewhere in the book found that emissions were 45 times greater for imports than for local, and up to five hundred times greater if travelling by air freight.

Finally, we can cover livestock. Livestock production in its current form creates a staggering 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. As a locavore I've eaten a lot of grass-fed beef and local milk, but the truth is, ruminants produce loads of methane no matter how they are raised. Methane is the second-most significant greenhouse gas, 23 times as powerful as carbon dioxide but mercifully less prevalent. It's the same "natural gas" that energy companies are drilling into shale for, which is why I once joked that we should raise cows to produce methane instead of milk – by volume, they certainly make more of the gas! It's almost 10:1.

If you're eating conventional meat, though, you've got more than ruminant burps to worry about. The same layering effect mentioned above applies to your meat, and it's a real doozy. Globally, half of all corn and 90% of all soy harvested is fed to animals. Two-thirds of all the agricultural land in production is used for raising meat. Half of all energy use related to agriculture goes to raising animal feed. It takes 16 pounds of soy and corn to raise one pound of feed-lot beef. (Please note that soy and corn, unlike grass, could be eaten by people directly, and much more efficiently.) Most of that corn and soy is raised conventionally, with all the related fertilizer, tilling, etc.     

Another issue with conventional meat is the waste. Animals in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) produce so much waste in so little space that in many cases it is stored in what is euphemistically termed "lagoons." Setting aside the risk of weather-related overflow (ew), manure lagoons release methane and carbon dioxide directly into the atmosphere, and not a lot of the stuff gets used as fertilizer or in any other productive function.

Alarming as a lot of this information is, I experience it as empowering. It’s information that I can use moving forward to make more-knowledgeable choices when I set the table for dinner. I've learned so much from reading this book, and truthfully, I expect that I may read it multiple times.

You should definitely pick it up to at least leaf through. Happy eating!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dinner: The Recipes

The big eating is coming towards the end in this meal. When purchasing my brace of coneys from Malta Ridge, I asked for their two largest, which turned out to be kind of a LOT. I did the stewing of the actual meat a week or two ahead of time, because stew freezes so beautifully that there's no reason not to make things easy on yourself.

But, there was so much of the end product that it was days before we could come close to finishing it, and that's after inviting an extra person to this portion of the party and sending heaps of the stuff over to a friend's in a care package. So there's a lesson learned: don't ask for the biggest bunnies.

If you liked the bunny stew but don't want to pay for bunnies (or have issues with eating bunny), just do this with chicken. You can even use a leftover chicken for this method, which is great because you use the whole thing that way. When making chicken stew, I often add peas as well, and make dumplings (basically biscuits that you boil on top of the stew). I definitely recommend them!

The salad was a mix of baby lettuces from the Concourse Market, with sliced radishes and two colors of carrots. I've read that salads were really made with iceberg lettuce in the Victorian era, but sometimes accuracy just needs to bow to personal tastes. There was also a Victorian salad dressing I was going to make, but at the last minute I just plain didn't feel like it; I put out oil and vinegar instead.

Hard boiled eggs are also a staple of Victorian salad eating, but I served mine whole (though shelled) and on the side. I actually steam my eggs when hard-cooking, because it makes them spectacularly easy to shell. Also, shelling eggs is even easier if you get a house-guest to do the job, like I did.

Dinner Menu
stewed brace of coneys ("recipe" below)
hard boiled eggs
strong red wine (à la Gandalf)
root beer and ginger beer (for the non-drinking set)

Stewed Brace of Coneys
2 rabbits
several onions
poultry seasoning
water to cover
1 t. or so peppercorns

10-15 medium po-tay-toes, peeled and chunked
1+ lb. carrots (I used two colors from Gomez Veggie Ville)
1-2 c. little onions (again, shallot-sized), peeled and halved
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped up
salt and pepper to taste

I made this using the same method I used for chicken stew, because rabbits taste so similar to chicken breast meat (no, really!). You put the bunnies in lots of water with stuff that makes the broth taste good. If I'd had extra carrots and some celery, I'd have probably added them at this stage. I boil it for a couple of hours, till the meat seems loose enough to come off the bones easily.

After cooling, I strain the broth (I froze it in a big gallon container). I pick the meat off the bones and cut the big pieces into nice stew chunks and freeze them, too, discarding the veggies and bones.

When it's time to finish the stew, I get the broth going and add everything but the meat. (Bunny meat really is similar to chicken breast, and I wanted it in chunks, not shredded from stirring.) I thought about mushrooms here, but decided against them randomly.

Once the potatoes and carrots and all are cooked, I add in the meat and let it all heat up. Then serve! Om nom nom nom.

Afternoon Tea: Seedcake, Lots!

Afternoon tea was simple both because some more complex dishes were in the works (I think it was around this time that I was getting the Hotpot ready for the oven) and because people were getting simply buried in food. Two chickens were distinctly too much at Luncheon, although in my defense when I ordered the things I had no idea just how gigantic a free-range chicken could be. Usually farmer's market chickens are dinky little things, to keep them at a reasonable price I think. These were great big fat birds, completely delicious and gigantic, courtesy of Malta Ridge, from whom I also bought the coneys.

Afternoon Tea Menu
Seed Cake - Lots!
Stilton (from the co-op)

Seed Cake 
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1½ c. flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
6 T. milk
2 T. seed (I made one cardamom - make sure you crush those! - and one anise)
3 T. brandy
½ t. mace
½ t. nutmeg
sprinkling of demerara sugar (I subbed turbinado)

Pre-heat oven to 350 F and grease an 8-inch round cake pan. I also lined the bottom with parchment paper to make it come out nice, but I wouldn't have bothered if it weren't for company.

Beat the butter and sugar together until it's pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Mix in the spices and flour (I saved the seeds for last when I was making two kinds, just split the batter and then mixed in the seeds) and finally the brandy and milk.

Pour into the cake pan and sprinkle with the demerara (turbinado).

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test. The recipe say that this cake will stay good for days, and I can attest to that! I think it must be the ridiculous butter level in the recipe.

Luncheon: The Recipes

Luncheon was, for the most part, a collection of cold foods. I based it on Gandalf's call fro cold chicken and pickles at the beginning of the Hobbit. I wasn't sure how much was enough, or how everyone would feel about just chicken, so I also served some cold ham, some cheddars for our vegetarian guest, and since there was so little cooking involved, chose this as the time to break out some sautéed mushrooms and of course, more bread and butter.

When I'm not fussed over getting a crispy skin, I usually "roast" my chickens in my biggest crockpot. It makes the moistest, most delicious chicken, which is important when you're eating it cold. 

Luncheon Menu
cold chicken (cooking method - not exactly a recipe - below)
cold ham (from Oscar's)
variety of pickles (from Bird Haven and Grey Mouse Farm)
sautéed mushrooms ("recipe" below for this, too)
cheddars from the co-op (1-year, 4-year, and Palatine with wild onion)
more bread and butter (Granny Omi, this round)

Cold Chicken
2 chickens
spices: poultry seasoning, onion powder, (extra) rosemary, pepper, salt

Cut chickens in half so they fit in your biggest crockpot. Sprinkle with seasoning, place in crockpot, let cook for about six hours.

Remove from juices and refrigerate overnight. Remove from bones in chunks before serving.

Sautéed Mushrooms
1 pint crimini (baby 'bella) mushrooms
1 pint white mushrooms
1 small (we're talking shallot-sized) onion
sprinkling of oregano
1-2 T. butter
splash of white cooking wine
salt to taste

Throw everything into a saucepan and cook low and slow. I think maybe, with the addition of the wine, this is more like a "stewing" or something than a sautéeing. I dunno. But they tasted good!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Elevensies: How to Make Lembas

I based my Lembas on this writer's idea here, of a nice basic scone wrapped up in some sort of mock mallorn leaf. I really didn't want to cut out all those foam sheets and hand-paint every leaf, so I printed out his template, asked Matt Martin to paint it, and used the magic of color photocopying to simplify the job. Because, really.

Elevensies Menu
scones wrapped up as Lembas (recipe below)
Wensleydale cheese with cranberries, from the co-op's fantastic selection of snooty cheeses.

Lembas Scones
(basically on this recipe here)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup butter
1/8 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt into a bowl.
Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and enough milk to mix to a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface, knead lightly and roll out to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with milk to glaze.
Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 10 minutes then cool on a wire rack. Serve with butter or clotted cream and jam.
Now, it's worth pointing out here that this is what the recipe tells us to do. It's not at all what we actually did because, while Matt Martin's daughter and high school friend were tackling the Lembas, Matt Martin's college friend and I were trying to get the steel-cut oatmeal going, because what we all really agreed we felt like doing was a nice game of Trivial Pursuit.

But, there was chaos in the kitchen trying to find the cream of tartar, then Matt's daughter threw all the milk in before they got the butter worked in, and all of this in a bowl that was really too small for the job.

Eventually I went in bare-handed and kneaded that puppy into submission. I got a cookie sheet, squooshed it out into rectanguloids, and slapped them bastards in the oven hoping for the best.

Really, they turned out quite tasty!

Second Breakfast: The Recipes

Second Breakfast was a small collection of simple breakfast foods, not that that made them simple to get together. Frying eggs was significantly harder than I expected (I usually cage those suckers in well-greased Mason jar rings, but that didn't seem hobbity - and DANG but those suckers are slippery). And I singed the bacon a little bit. But everyone was still excited.

Second Breakfast Menu
fried eggs from Buckley's
apple wood bacon from Oscar's
sausage-stuffed mushrooms (recipe below)

This really means just one recipe to share for this part of the day, because if you don't already know how to fry eggs or bacon, I am clearly not the one to show you. No expertise over here in this corner!

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
(idea from an old Fanny Farmer cookbook)
Handful of big-ass stuffing mushrooms - I think I only made 6-8
Loose breakfast sausage
Cooking spray

Spray the bejeebers out of a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan. Pop the stems out of the shrooms and set them aside for sautéeing later. Stuff that thing with sausage and set it in the baking pan. I like to give the shrooms a shot of cooknig spray, too; it gives the surface a nicer finish.

Bake at 350 till they seem, you know, done. I think I gave myself a margin of half an hour and they were about perfect. Enjoy!

First Breakfast: The Recipes

Many of the party guests from last weekend have asked me to make sure I post the recipes. Sometimes this will be difficult - I've always improvised my stews - but I'll give it the old college try and hope everyone learns what they wanted.

First Breakfast Menu
Steel-cut oatmeal with apples and cinnamon (recipe below)
cinnamon walnuts (recipe below)
muesli bread
tea, coffee, and cider
every possible condiment - honey x2, raspberry jam, orange marmalade, Amish butter, Battenkill half and half, and Meadowbrook cream for the oatmeal.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
(from here)
2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1-1/2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Coat inside of 3-1/2 quart (or larger) slow cooker with cooking spray. Add all ingredients to slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approx. 7 hours (slow cooker times can vary). Spoon oatmeal into bowls; add optional toppings, if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator. Freezes well.

Sweet Coated Walnuts
1 egg white
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
1 pound walnut halves
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Lightly butter a baking sheet.

In a bowl, beat the egg white until foamy. Mix in cinnamon, sugar, salt, and water. Mix well. Stir in walnuts, stirring until well coated. Spread on baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lord of the Rings Epic Party: Victory is Mine!

Well, yesterday was our epic party, and I just have to say: Epic Party Was Epic. Friends came from near and far, everybody had fun, and we ate and viewed films from 8:00 am till nearly 10:00 pm.

Here are some highlights:

First Breakfast - steel-cut oatmeal with apples and cinnamon, cinnamon walnuts, muesli bread, tea, coffee, and cider, plus every possible condiment - honey x2, raspberry jam, orange marmalade, Amish butter, Battenkill half and half, and Meadowbrook cream for the oatmeal.
Second Breakfast -fried eggs from Buckley's, bacon from Oscar's (slightly burnt - whoops!), sausage-stuffed mushrooms.

Elevensies - scones wrapped up as Lembas, and Wensleydale cheese with cranberries.

Luncheon - cold chicken and ham, a variety of pickles, hazelnuts, sautéed mushrooms, a collection of cheddars, and more bread and butter.

Afternoon Tea - seed-cake, lots! Also some Stilton.

Dinner - stewed brace of coneys, salad with hard boiled eggs, and the beer and wine made its debut along with root beer and ginger beer for the non-drinking set.

Supper - Shire Hotpot (which I forgot to take a picture of; please accept these sad hobbits instead).

Dessert - a miniature of Bilbo's birthday cake by Quigley's Cakes:

plus tiny mince and blackberry pies:
This was undoubtedly the most fun I've ever had throwing a party in my own home. Guests kept checking up on me and trying to get me to sit, but no dice. I was in my element and bouncing around my kitchen in glee like never before.

I was continually ahead of schedule all day, so eventually, sometime after dinner, I did actually settle in to watch along with everyone else. But only after I admitted to myself that my tuchus hurt, plus there was absolutely nothing I needed to do for over an hour into the future.

Thus ends this year's epic mission. Quest. Thing to give the spouse the best 43rd birthday possible. What next?...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hobbit Test Kitchen: Brace of Coneys

I should have listened to Samwise Gamgee. He tells us, “there’s only one way to eat a brace of coneys.” Then he stews them.

I knew this. But did I listen? Well, yes… until I went trolling around AllRecipes and found one for braised rabbit with mushroom sauce. That sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Hobbits are nutty for mushrooms! Perfect.

So I started my experiment. Usually when a recipe calls for a cream soup, I make up a white sauce of my own. It’s got less salt and less of a “can” taste. I can usually get a good flavor with the addition of some bouillon and spices.

Then, I thought I’d add some variety to our mushroom palate with this dish. I’ve only ever been known to like white mushrooms, but I hadn’t tried shitake yet, and the farmer’s market vendor who grows them did such a good sales job that I was thoroughly convinced I’d love them. So instead of mushroom soup, carrots, and potatoes, I was going to have white sauce, mushrooms, and mushrooms.

When it came out of the oven, it was beautiful. It took a lovely picture. But unfortunately, it turns out I don’t like shitake mushrooms. And of course by cooking them all together like this, their flavor was in everything.

Then it turned out that maybe we don’t like rabbit much, either. I say “maybe” because we couldn’t tell through the mushroom flavor. What was rabbit? What was shitake? It’s hard to say.

One thing was for sure: it’s possible that the rabbit lady was right, and rabbit tastes like chicken; but it sure doesn’t look like chicken. And while I can get very adventurous with meat that’s big enough to come in steak or cubed stew meat form, I’ve learned that I can get a bit funny about smaller animals that I’m not accustomed to. Although frog legs are delicious, I have a terrible time with them because you can clearly make out the shape of their little hips. It gives me a sad.

Another problem is that the texture was strange and chewy near the bone. But I think that, if I listen to Samwise like I should’ve in the first place, all these problems can be solved. Coneys can be stewed much longer than they can be cooked in a cream sauce, making them tender all the way through; and in a stew you would take them off the bone, solving my issue with their shape. And as for the shitakes, well, I just won’t use any.

Stews are simple enough that I’ll skip out on the test kitchen part, though. We’re getting down to the wire here, too. The time for experimentation is passed! 

One Shitake, Two Shitake, Three Shitake, HORK
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1 dressed rabbit, cut up
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups milk
3 T. cornstarch
3 cubes bouillon, crushed
poultry seasoning
1½ - 2 cups shitakes, cut into chunks
1½ - 2 cups white mushrooms, cut into chunks

Combine flour, salt, pepper, and onion powder in a bowl, and set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Coat each piece of rabbit with the seasoned flour mixture, and cook in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until the rabbit pieces are golden brown. Remove the rabbit from the skillet and set aside.

Preheat an oven to 325F.

In the skillet, blend three cups of milk with three crushed cubes of bouillon, 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, and a sprinkling of Bell’s poultry seasoning. Heat (no higher than medium) while whisking until it the cornstarch cooks and it thickens. You may want to add some salt to taste, also.

I used the ceramic part of one of my crockpots to make this dish. I greased it and layered the bottom with mushrooms, then laid the rabbit on top, and put in the remaining mushrooms. I then poured the sauce over the whole thing, put the lid on, and set it in the oven. I let mine bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Hobbit Test Kitchen: The Little Things - Spiced Walnuts

First breakfast is going to center around apple cinnamon oatmeal. You make it in a crockpot with steel-cut oats, so it’s the kind of thing I can plug in at night and it will be ready for us when we all wake up. Ahhhh.

To go with it, I thought it’d be nice to have some spices nuts. I used to make some every Christmas and give them away – cinnamon walnuts and ginger almonds. They were great because they lasted forever, so they were a sweet treat that I could give out, and if the recipient didn’t eat them right away they wouldn’t go stale and be wasted like cookies or other baked stuff.

But somewhere in the course of moving computers over the years, the recipe was misplaced. Also, they were cooked up in a microwave, and ours broke and hasn’t been replaced. So I looked for a new recipe on my favorite recipe site.

As usual, I looked at the recipes by rank, and the highest-rated one was something I had all the ingredients and equipment for. It was originally for pecans, but it seemed worth the risk, so I tried it.

But apparently, it’s not as good with walnuts, period. And it’s definitely not as good as my old recipe. They’re not bad, but walnuts have a much stronger taste than pecans, and this recipe has almost all sweet notes, and no buttery or salty, which I miss. But they’re still good enough that I’m going to try it on pecans later and see what I think.

A reasonable person might wonder at this point why I don’t make this with pecans now. It has to do with the attempted aesthetic for this shindig.

When contemplating the foods I was going to serve, I considered a number of factors. The first, and most important, is that Tolkien himself wrote about food that was inspired by the rural, late-19th-century diet that he remembered fondly from his youth in the English countryside. It’s also worth taking into account the medieval feel of the stories as well as the 18th-century feel of the movies’ version of the Shire.

To this end, I’ve tried to cut out American and other non-British crops unless they are specifically mentioned in the books. Potatoes are in (“boil ‘em up, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew”), but the dilly beans I bought really shouldn’t be included, and Tolkien himself ruled out tomatoes during an edit of the Hobbit. (Apparently Gandalf originally asked Bilbo to bring out the “tomatoes and cold chicken,” instead of pickles. There is some debate as to why he made the change, though.)

I’ve already got a fairly thorough knowledge of American crops, but in terms of some other areas – cheeses, nuts, and wines – I’ve had to do some research. Hazelnuts are in, because they’ve been cultivated and prized in the now-BritishIsles since prehistory. I’m going to put them out right in their shells in a salute to this little fact.

Black walnuts are indigenous to the Americas, and so are pecans (a type of hickory nut, apparently), but while regular walnuts aren’t native to Britain, they’ve been eaten there for long enough that they’re now called, “English walnuts.” Good enough for me!

It’s just too bad I didn’t have my old recipe…

Sweet Coated Walnuts

1 egg white
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
1 pound walnut halves
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Lightly butter a baking sheet.

In a bowl, beat the egg white until foamy. Mix in cinnamon, sugar, salt, and water. Mix well. Stir in walnuts, stirring until well coated. Spread on baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hobbit Test Kitchen: Shire Hotpot

This one was a definite winner. In fact it was such a BIG win that nearly the entire dish was gone before I realized I'd never taken a picture.

Given my level of skill with a camera, that hardly seems like much of a loss.

This dish is based on a British comfort food called Lancashire Hotpot, which I heard of because of Wallace and Gromit, easily one of my favorite cartoons of all time. The authentic dish calls for lamb kidneys, but fortunately for me, I only have to be authentically hobbit, not authentically Lancashire. We're dealing with an American audience here, so organ meats are right out.

Otherwise, Lancashire hotpot is a lot like shepherd's pie. The big difference is that it's made with sliced instead of mashed potatoes, which actually make it simpler to prepare if you don't have leftover mashed handy (and who ever does? Certainly no one in our house). We're going to call our version Shire Hotpot, and it's so good it might make its way into regular rotation in our kitchen.

I based my experiment on a combination of two recipes - one from AllRecipes, one from the BBC. I essentially followed the AllRecipes version (minus kidneys), but added in carrots because the BBC allows it.

Here's how we did it.

Mini Shire Hotpot

1 tiny onion, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

½ pound cubed leg of lamb meat
3 to 4 medium-to-large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

cup lamb stock
1 cube of chicken bouillon, crushed

I used lamb steaks to make my stew meat for this, which meant cutting away some fat, membrane, and bone. I put it all in a small saucepan with some water and a sprinkling of Bell's poultry seasoning to boil into some stock while the potatoes and carrots were peeled and sliced.

Preheat the oven 375°F.

While the lamb stock boiled, I sautéed the onions with the carrots in some vegetable oil and butter. (The Lancashire recipe that allowed for the inclusion of carrots suggested this method.) Then I took them from the pan and set them aside. I put the lamb in the skillet to brown it on all sides; the original recipe said to fry it for 12 to 15 minutes, "until rich chestnut brown in color," but I had mine in very small cubes and I didn't want it to get tough or crunchy. So once it browned, I actually added the lamb stock plus the crushed bouillon right in there and let it stew away until 12 minutes had passed. (The bouillon was added because the stock hadn't had time to boil for very long; I presumed it might be kind of weak.)

Because this was a trial sized hotpot, I made it in a greased loaf pan. I put a nice layer of potato slices on the bottom and salted and peppered them, then the onions and carrots went in (more salt), then the stew meat (but reserving the broth - it should be poured over the top potatoes). Here I put in just a sprinkling of thyme (but the lamb is so good on its own I may skip this next time), then lay the last of the potatoes over, slathered some butter on top, and poured the broth over the whole thing.

I covered the whole thing in foil to keep it from drying out, then baked it an hour or so. When the potatoes were nice and soft, I slathered the top with more butter and put them under the broiler (set for low) to give the top some nice browning.