Coming home from school, opening the door and smelling that lovely wholesome smell that only mum’s cooking can inspire, be it a hearty meal for the evening or some kind of baking, everyone has their own distinctive memories of that home cooked wonder of being a child that you try to recreate for your own kids.
One of these dishes will undeniably be the Lancashire hotpot but do you know the history surrounding the dish?
The potato and lamb meal was very popular when Lancashire’s cotton industry was at its height in the 19th century. It was quick and easy to make and could be left to its own devices in the oven while the makers, usually female mill workers, were working in the mills and factories.
The hotpot kept miners sustained too and pots were wrapped in blankets to ensure it was still warm by lunchtime.
In the novel ‘North and South’ the Victorian writer Elizabeth Gaskell described Mr Thornton, a mill owner as “dining on hotpot with his workers.”
More recently the Lancashire hotpot has been a delicacy on the cobbles of Coronation Street as Betty’s signature dish in the fictional pub The Rovers Return. Across the border, the signature food there is the Yorkshire pudding. Perfect with roast dinners, dripping in gravy, the first ever recorded recipe for this was definitely not by Aunt Bessie.
It appeared in a book called ‘The Whole Duty of Woman’ in 1737 and was called ‘A Dripping Pudding with the dripping coming from the spit-roast meat.’
The second recorded recipe was in ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’ by Hannah Glasse in 1747. Hannah Glasse was one of the famous food writers of her time and so the pudding grew in popularity.
Despite two wars, food rationing of the 40s and 50s and new trends of the 60s, the Yorkshire pudding survived it all.
But as modern life began to take shape and more women worked, the pudding was homemade less and less especially with the launch of Aunt Bessie’s brand in 1995.
In 2007 Vale of York MP Anne McIntosh, campaigned for Yorkshire puddings to be given the same protected status as French Champagne or Greek feta cheese, “The people of Yorkshire are rightly and fiercely proud of the Yorkshire pudding,” she said “it is something which has been cherished and perfected for centuries in Yorkshire.” At the time it was deemed too generic a term but that hasn’t stopped Aunt Bessie’s and two other manufacturers making another attempt for its protected status.
Other dishes can be traced back much further than these two. One of which is the hearty record of black puddings which dates back to Assyrian times, the Greek King Agamemnon was said to have fed his army on blood and onions which was fairly wise of him considering blood contains iron and protein and onions contain lots of carbohydrates and sugars to keep strengths up.
Then the Romans who were expert sausage makers took the recipe and placed skins around it and therefore introducing the first black pudding. This new recipe followed them throughout their Empire.
Another popular theory holds that it was the moors of North Africa who followed the Romans into many parts of Europe and introduced them to the delights of the blood dish, the ingredients of which were so readily available to them. Some even think that theSpanish word for morcilla and the French town of Mortagne, which hosts the international black pudding festival are among those that derive their names from the Moors.
A regional recipe which dates back to medieval times is Chorley cakes. It’s believed that they may have originally been developed as ‘way bread’ as the staple food of pilgrims and merchant travellers with their currant or raisin filling and thick pastry outside to sustain energy. Now comparatively they have found a market among the thousands of ramblers who visit the Peak District every year.
So the history of some of our much-loved food can often be quite surprising. The hearty black pudding associated with traditional northern English cooked breakfast actually originated from Ancient Greece and Yorkshire puddings date back as far as the 1700s when some genius Yorkshire lady decided to give away her recipe… maybe next time you make one of these signature dishes you will spare a little thought to the history behind the taste.