A Hotpot from Puglia for Easter
If you fancy a change from the traditional Roast Lamb this Easter this recipe makes a wonderful alternative. Incredibly simple to prepare, easy on the wallet and quite delicious – what more could you ask for?
This is essentially an Italian take on a Hotpot originating from Puglia. A traditional Lancashire Hotpot, whilst a firm favourite, is an autumnal dish for me and by the time Easter rolls around I want something lighter, fresher and more in keeping with the season.
I hesitate to describe this as a recipe, it is more a suggestion of mutually sympathetic ingredients – lamb, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, herbs and cheese. How you combine them is up to you, but I will offer my preferred method.
There are so many recipes and variations for this online, just google Puglia Lamb Potatoes or Agnello al forno con Patate ricetta Pugliese and you’ll find hundreds. I think my favourite is how Stella makes her version here (video link) No wimpy chopping board for this Nonna!
I use lamb neck fillet, waxy Charlotte potatoes, Parmigiano Reggiano, tomatoes, lots of fresh green herbs loads of extra virgin olive oil and possibly more garlic than most would find acceptable. I also add a couple of anchovies which I don’t believe are traditional and a little white wine – but these are completely optional.
One thing I like to do is present this in a similar way to a traditional Lancashire Hotpot.
The Hot Pot:
Part of the pleasure of making this recipe for me is the casserole in which it is made – I use the 20cm round cast iron le creuset casserole that I inherited from my Grandmother and use at least a couple of times a week.
When I was growing up my Gran, who was a good (and adventurous!) cook, lived just around the corner from us and I would have dinner at her house once a week. More often than not it would be something she had cooked in this casserole, and being that she lived in Bury for many years – dinner was often a Lancashire Hotpot.
I have no idea how old it is or how many hot pots it has cooked. My Gran cooked me hers in it, now I make mine in it – usually the same Lancashire version she made, but I think she would have enjoyed this Mediterranean take on it as well.
I am so glad I inherited this casserole, every time I cook with it I think happily of Gran, she lives on in our kitchen. The knob on top of the lid got slightly broken years ago, I nearly bought a replacement recently, however I’m sentimental and I couldn’t do it.
Its perfection lies in its imperfection and the history and memories it holds.
Buona Pasqua Nonna!
Cooking time: 2 Hours 10 mins
Serves: 2 portions and leftovers for lunch
900g Lamb Neck Fillet
8 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, crushed
800g Charlotte Potatoes (or Maris Pipers)
50g Fresh green herbs – Parsley, Chives, Oregano, Basil etc
100g Parmigiano Reggiano
4 Anchovy Fillets
Small glass of dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
This really couldn’t be simpler, it’s basically just a job of prepping and layering the ingredients.
Preheat your oven to 170°C.
Peel the onions, chop in half and slice into fine half moons. Soften in 2 Tbsp of the oil over a medium heat until turning golden, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Peel the potatoes and slice thinly. I do this on a mandolin for speed and uniformity, but otherwise use a knife. (I prep 800g, this is normally slightly too much but I don’t like to be caught out – I just freeze any excess for use in soups etc.)
Halve the tomatoes, de-seed and roughly chop.
Trim the lamb neck fillets of connective tissue and large chunks of fat. Cut into 1.5 inch cubes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
A note on the lamb: You can use any cut of lamb – steaks, cubed shoulder on the bone, chops, even a whole joint, slashed deeply. I choose to use boneless lamb for ease when making this for the two of us – we normally take the leftovers to work for lunch and bones make it tricky to portion. Plus I actually quite like the fresher flavours of the vegetables and herbs dominating the broth. If I was making this for a larger crowd I would probably opt for lamb on the bone.
Finely grate the Parmigiano Reggiano.
Crush the garlic cloves and finely slice the anchovy fillets.
Chop the herbs – parsley is a must for me as the base, but for the rest I use a mix of whatever I have available – oregano, chives, basil – all good.
I find a 20cm le creuset casserole the perfect size for this, add 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to the casserole.
Add a third of the potatoes in a concentric, overlapping pattern to the base of the casserole. Season with a little salt and pepper. In single, compact layers add half of the lamb, anchovies, onions, tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and 1/3 of the Parmigiano Reggiano.
Add another third of the potatoes in the same manner. Firmly press down with the palms of your hands on this layer to compress the filling. Season with a little salt and pepper and repeat the process with the remaining lamb, tomatoes, anchovies, garlic and herbs. Add a little salt and pepper and another 1/3 of the Parmigiano Reggiano.
Add the final third of potatoes in the neatest concentric pattern you can and once again, firmly press down with the palms of your hands on this layer to compress the filling, it should come to just below the top of the casserole.
Pour the white wine down the side of the casserole. Drizzle the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil over the top and season with a little salt and pepper
Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 45 mins. Remove the lid, sprinkle over the remaining 1/3 of Parmigiano Reggiano and return to the oven for 75 mins.
Remove, rest for 10 mins and serve.