Sunday, November 21, 2010

English Black Country Hot Pot

      England's Black Country is a heavy industrial and coal mining region.  Black Country got its name from the pollution from the coal industry as well as the miners being covered in black coal dust.
     This hot pot recipe is a very warming entree for a cold tired coal miner!  This is a very easy and simple recipe, but it has a very long cooking time.
     Many gourmet diners are snobbish concerning traditional English cooking.  Most English food is very simple, rich and heavy.  Cold, clammy, foggy, rainy and harsh climates breed heavy simple comfort foods, like English cuisine.  I learned a lot about English Isle cooking when I was the chef at an English Pub.  English food is cooked with pride and tradition just like all other great cuisines!  
     Recipe:  Make a salt dough with this proportion:  2 parts flour, 1 part salt and just enough water added to make a pliable firm dough.  Make about enough salt dough for a small pie crust. 
     Knead the dough till it is smooth like clay.  (It is traditional to use this salt dough like clay to make holiday ornaments too.)  
     Fill a small ceramic baking crock dish or a large ceramic souffle ramekin with equal amounts of raw beef cut into bite size cubes and large leek slices.
     The crock dish must be completely filled to the top with the beef and leeks.  (Do not season the beef and leeks with salt, pepper or any herb!)
     Add enough water to cover the beef and leeks in the crock dish.
     Roll out the salt dough with a rolling pin, till it is as thick as pie crust.
     Place the salt dough sheet over crock dish.
     Use your fingers to spread water on the salt dough where it will make contact with the ceramic crock.  This step will cause the salt dough to stick to the crock when the dough is pressed against the crock.
     Press the salt dough against the crock dish and seal the ingredients inside the crock with an air tight seal.  Trim the excess dough from the crock.
     Use the excess dough to decorate the salt dough crock dish cap.  (I made the one in the photos to look like a sea biscuit.)
     Bake the sealed crock in an oven at 180 to 200 degrees for 24-30 hours.
     When the hot pot is done baking, remove it from the oven and set it on a serving plate.
     Crack the edges of the dough carefully by striking with the back of a knife.
     Pop the hard dough top off of the crock dish.  (Do not eat the salt dough!)
     Stir the beef and leeks with a spoon.
     The hot pot beef is very soft and tender.  The leeks are practically melted.  The water will have turned into a beautiful flavored gravy after baking slowly for more than a day.  The aroma is very rich and satisfying.  The simple flavors are superb using this sealed hot pot baking technique!  It is worth the long wait for this Black Country Hot Pot to come out of the oven.  This is comfort food that is fitting for an over worked coal miner in bad cold weather!  Simply delicious! ...  Shawna

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