Lancashire hotpot is one of those "stone soup" recipes where whatever happens to be on hand gets tossed into the pot, and a filling meal is the end result; other regional examples include lobscouse and cawl. As with most dishes of this ilk, traditional versions are fairly meaty, and as this blogger notes, "The type of meat to be used in a true Lancashire hotpot is a matter of some controversy, with many being of the opinion that it should be lamb (with optional lamb kidneys) and some thinking it should be beef. As much food can be added as will fit in the pot."
Since neither lambs or cows are food - and who the hell wants to eat anyone's kidneys? - you won't find any of that nasty stuff here, but you will find more of this MoFo's Victory Garden staples. I also added some Gardein beefless tips that were hanging out in the freezer, but you could easily use all mushrooms for the "meaty" component; after that, it's just a matter of rounding up the usual suspects to add to the mix. Onions, leeks, carrots, parsnips, celery, and turnip/swede are all mentioned in various recipes, and I used all of these except the last, which is one of the very few veggies I genuinely dislike. Traditionally, the whole business is then topped with a layer of thinly sliced potatoes, but if you're feeling lazy and/or iconoclastic and don't mind flying in the face of custom, you could substitute mashed and reduce the cooking time slightly. The finished product was tasty, filling, came together pretty quickly, and went over well at ours; the relative dearth of leftovers indicates it's a MoFo experiment that will be making future appearances.
(A few pop cultural notes that may be of interest: hotpot was the signature dish of Coronation Street's long-serving barmaid, Betty Williams, who served it up at The Rover's Return from 1969 to 2011. In Wallace and Gromit's A Grand Day Out, the former bucks up his canine companion's spirits by encouraging him to "Hold tight, lad, and think of Lancashire hotpot" as they blast off for the moon - their ideal holiday spot, based on its reputation for being made of cheese. And the casserole is one of the few things for which Michael Caine's mod Cockney misogynist, Alfie, praises his unfortunate "bird," although he worries that "its" cooking is making him fat: "And it can cook, too. A bit limited on the menu. It goes in for Lancashire hotpot and steak and kidney pie. They blow you out a bit, but it does do a marvellous egg custard.” Yeah, whatever, Alfie.)
~ 1 tbsp. margarine
~ 2 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 large leek or onion, chopped (I used a combination)
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 carrots, sliced
~ 2 parsnips, sliced
~ 4-5 cups chopped mushrooms (I used portobellos)
~ 1 tsp. each: sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, dry mustard
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, vegan Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Smoke
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 1 package vegan "beef" tips (optional)
~ 2-3 tbsp. flour
~ Potatoes, thinly sliced or mashed, to cover the top
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large, deep skillet, saute the leek and/or onion and garlic over medium heat for a few minutes.
~ Add the carrots, celery, parsnips, and half the broth; cover and cook another 5 minutes.
~ Add the mushrooms, dry seasonings, Marmite, Worcester sauce, and Liquid Smoke. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrooms have softened and released their liquid.
~ Add the "beef" tips (if using), the remaining broth, and the flour. Stir to combine and cook, uncovered, for another few minutes, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the casserole.
~ Now it's time for the potatoes:
1. If you're being traditional and using sliced, layer half the potato slices over the vegetable filling, dot with a little margarine, the add the remaining potatoes, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a little more margarine. Cover with foil and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes to brown.
2. If you're an iconoclastic maverick (or just lazy/pressed for time), top the filling with a generous layer of mashed potatoes champ, smooth with a rubber spatula, and top with a little melted margarine and a dusting of salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until beauteously browned.
~ Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.