Fylde Hotpot

Beer and food? The combination of stout and shellfish is well-known. Not many people realise that a small glass of dark strong ale is the perfect companion to the big fry. You should try it. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout will make a better job of complimenting a heavy dessert than many a ‘stickie’. A dry yet full-flavoured beer would make a fine pre-prandial, less cloying than a gin-and-tonic. Cheese and ale is a rustic litany. Strong pale ale, unlike wine, stands up unflinchingly to chutneys, pickles, even chunks of raw onion or shallot. Beers also go well with (and in) hearty rib-sticking casseroles like carbonnade Flamande.
One of my favourite beer/meat/veg combinations is this extravagant improvisation on the traditional Lancashire hotpot theme, cooked by my eccentric Auntie Ethel, who ran a fine hotel in England’s Lake District back in the fifties and sixties.

FYLDE HOTPOT
8 lamb gigot chops
2 large onions
4 large carrots
4 breakfast mushrooms
6 large waxy potatoes
8/12 oysters
parsley & thyme
1 bottle English pale ale (my aunt always used Worthington White Shield)

Preheat the oven to 200C
Peel and cut the potatoes into ¼ inch slices and parboil them lightly.
Cut the carrots into ¼ inch rounds. Chop the onions finely. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onions until they just start to colour. Place them in a round casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Flour the chops and fry them in hot oil on both sides, for a couple of minutes. Layer up the potatoes and carrots, reserving enough potatoes for one final layer. Dust each layer lightly with pepper and salt, as you go. Put in the meat and the parsley & thyme and cover with the final layer of potatoes. Pour the contents of the bottle of beer into the casserole.
Cook for approx. 30/35 minutes. The potatoes on the top layer should be soft enough to eat. Take the lid off the casserole and return to the oven to brown the top layer. Just before serving, open the oysters and ‘float’ them on top of the dish. Return the hotpot to oven for a few minutes, until the oysters are just cooked.

I don’t know whether Lancashire’s Fylde coast from whence this dish originated ever had a flourishing oyster industry. Certainly the topography is not dissimilar to that of the Charente Maritime. I came across two old hotpot recipes from The Fylde both of which recommended thatching the dish with mussels.