I find the Hairy Bikers quite entertaining, and have seen some of the buzz around their Hairy Dieters series and the inevitable book(s) that sprang from it. As part of my effort to do more batch cooking, I fancied lamb hotpot this week, and their lean version came up in a search so I thought I'd give it a go.
As a special bonus, this time I even remembered to take photographs of the finished dish. Alex will be proud.
It was easy enough. Brown the meat, cook the onions and carrots a bit, add flour, herbs and stock, then cover with sliced potatoes and slow cook in the oven.
My main difficulty with this was the lack of a hob-to-oven casserole dish. I should have used a deep pan for the stove bits, so as to be able to combine the meat, veg and stock with the flour before transferring to an oven dish, but in a minor brain fade moment I didn't. So they didn't really get well mixed.
This may have been why the dish was disappointingly runny once its allotted time (and more) was up. I wanted thick and unctuous, and got what was more like a very chunky broth. The potatoes were a bit lacking as well, just a bit sad and limp - probably should have whacked the oven over to grill for a bit for a crispier top. Perhaps it's also down to the type of potato, which in this case I don't know as we bought a bag of unnamed ones from the greengrocer. I have a feeling they were waxy and probably should have been floury. We didn't peel them as the recipe said, but (a) I'm lazy and (b) that's where the goodness is anyway.
Another omission, this time on my part, was lamb stock - I thought I had some, but it turned out to be vegetable, which I combined with beef to try and get a darker, meatier flavour. The lamby flavour was therefore not as good as it might have been. Fresh thyme was a good call, though, and next time I might sneak out for a walk around the block, past a couple of houses that happen to have a big bay bush and rambling rosemary in the front garden (whistles innocently)...
I used lamb neck fillet instead of leg steaks, although I am not sure it made much difference to the taste. The meat was lovely and tender, although perhaps there was more fat from the neck than the suggested leg cuts, and I did find this made the potatoes quite greasy. Finally, in the absence of leaf greens (kale or savoy cabbage would be ideal), we had ours with peas, which added greenery but wasn't quite right taste and texture wise.
(Yes, you can see potatoes in the casseroley bit as well as the slices - I chopped up the ends into chunks so I could just have neat middle slices on the top!)
I know it's sacrilege, and apologies to any Lancastrians out there (sorry, Rob!), but next time I would not only mix the veg, meat, flour and stock more thoroughly but probably omit the potato topping as well, letting the hotpot bubble and reduce a bit more, and serve it with mash or even pop some dumplings in. Would be interesting to see if a proper lovely casserole dish a la Le Creuset would make a difference, but I don't think my blog is popular enough for me to start getting sent freebies :)