Over a year ago I speculated on the origins of Hot-pot, since this time I have collected some more information and formed a few more ideas. Originally, I speculated that there may be a connection between the familar hot-pot of mutton and potatoes and the earlier "Hot-pot" which was a posset type drink of enriched ale. In the last year I have found little evidence to suggest any connection other then the same name, so I now doubt that there is any direct relatioship.
An additional query that I have followed up is Thackeray's reference to the a Colonel Newcome who was "..great at making hash mutton, hot-pot, curry..". Newcome's character was based on the types of Anglo-Indian personalities that Thackeray was familiar with from his own family background and also from establishments such as the "Oriental Club" in London. Could hot-pot have origins outwith the UK? As it turns out one of the earliest recipes published for "Hot-pot" comes from the chef of the Oriental Club (see below, Richard Terry). Unfortunately, I have found no other Anglo-Indian connections. However, Terry's recipe may be an adaption of an earlier recipe from either The American Stranger’s Guide to London and Liverpool at the Table, 1859 or London at Table, 1851. The latter recipe is definately based on the earlier work. While both these books were published anonymously, "London at Table" appears on the list of works attributed to Lord William Pitt Lennox. Lennox served in the army with Wellington, but is best known as an anecdotalist. Lennox's seems to have served as the source of inspiration for the more up-maket recipes for Lancashire Hot-pot. But the 1930's "Florence White", an early collector of regional English recipes was able to give a near identical recipe as the particular version found in Bolton (Lancashire). Here I have listed several early examples of up-market form of "Hot-pot". While the recipes are closely related, some said to be connected to Lancashire, some are not.
London at Table, 1851 (Lord William Pitt Lennox)
At the bottom of the table, startling as it may sound, let there be a hotpot ; and as we are in a generous frame of mind, we will give to the public at large a receipt for one of the very best, most economical, and easily dressed dishes in the world, as Apollo sings, " Ply me, try me, prove, ere you deny me." The lean part of a loin of mutton, cut into small cutlets. Four mutton kidneys cut into slices, a quarter of a hundred oysters boiled and bearded, four or five potatoes peeled and cut into small slices ; mix the latter together, and put a handful into the bottom of a white earthen pot, or turtle mug, large enough to hold the whole of the above ; then a layer of mutton, oysters, and kidneys, after that a layer of potatoes and onions, then mutton, continually sprinkling pepper and salt betwixt each layer. When the pot is full, pile on the top a good lot of mashed potatoes, and bake in a moderate oven three hours ; before sending to table fill up with good gravy.
The American Stranger’s Guide to London and Liverpool at the Table, 1859
......followed by a Paté de Lancashire, vulgarly called Hot Pot. As many may doubt the merits of this popular dish,……….the following receipt is given: The lean part of a loin of mutton, cut into small cutlets. Four mutton kidneys pounded, a quarter of a hundred oysters bearded, four or five potatoes peeled and cut into small slices; mix together, and put a handful into the bottom of a white earthen pot, after that a layer of potatoes and onions, then mutton, &c., as before, until the pot is full; continually sprinkling pepper, salt, and a pinch of curry powder betwixt each layer. When the pot is full, pile on the top a good lot of potatoes, bake in a moderate oven three hours; before sending to the table. Fill up with good game gravy.
Indian Cookery, Richard Terry, 1861
Cut 8 pieces of lean mutton the size of a walnut, take the skin from 3 kidneys, and cut each into three; place these in a strong pudding basin, with one onion, 2 potatoes, sliced, a little macaroni, and 3-doz of oysters, season all well with black pepper and salt, fill the basin with stock, and place in an oven ¾ of an hour; take the basin out, and cover the top with mashed potatoes; place again in the oven for half an hour or until brown; when done, pin a napkin round, and serve.
Dinners and dinner-parties by George Vincent, 1862
Hot-pot (for eight persons) A Lancashire dish, is much liked; so much so, that every one at the table always partakes of it, and most persons make their dinner of it. This dish must be made in a fireproof pan, resembling in shape a turtle-mug or cheese-pan. Cut three pounds of rump-steak into square pieces, cut eight or ten potatoes into quarters, some whole small onions, and mushrooms if in season, all well-seasoned with cayenne black pepper and salt, together with a dozen kidneys; place all in layers on the other, pour over them three or four table-spoonfuls of mushroom catchup, and put six or eight dozen oysters at the top, cover it with a crust, and bake for two hours. A few larks or snipes are a great addition to the above
Apart fom these up-market versions containing oysters and kidneys, several plainer recipes were published slightly later. These are the style of recipe that most people associate with the modern "Lancashire Hot-pot", although there is no particular relationship with Lancashire indicated in the early recipes.
A Manual of Domestic Economy: Suited to Families Spending from £100 to £1000 a Year by J. H. Walsh, 1857
Take some fine chops from a neck of mutton, and trim them nicely, taking off most of the fat. Lay them at the bottom of a deep and rather wide dish, season them with pepper and salt. Lay a few slices of onion in the middle at the bottom of the dish, if the flavour is approved, and pour a quarter of a pint of cold water upon the whole. Then cover it with a layer of sliced potatoes, on the top of which lay a few more small chops, well seasoned, and cover all with another layer of sliced potatoes. Bake from an hour to an hour and a half or more, according to the size of the dish; in a very moderate oven.
There are also numerous recipes which are identical or very similar a "Hot-pot" which are given completely different names. The most clear example of this was called a "Baked Irish Stew" by Eliza Acton. So while some modern commentators differentiate Irish stew and Hot-pot by the cooking method, this is not actually the case. Irish stew could also be a baked dish like Hot-pot.
So we are in the interesting position of having an iconic regional dish working class dish, that appears to be neither a working class dish nor specifically regional in origin. It is worth noting that at the time that the first recipes were appearing, it is unlikely that the very poor would have access to domestic ovens. This is slightly problematic for those who would like to attribute working class/quasi-peasant origins to this dish. It is possible that it was bought elsewhere as a form of early convience food (unfortunately no records of this exist) or it had slightly an origin higher up the social ladder.
Unfortunately there is a tendency to lump a whole lot of quite different social groups under the same terms, such as "working class" or " peasant" etc. Often this is a gross over simplification or just simply anachronistic and wrong. In Lancashire and near-by regions there where people who had domestic ovens (larger farms and cottages) who are much more likely have been able to have made this type of dish, yet nobody seems to consider this?
One final thing. I had originally concluded that there was unlikely to be any direct connection between the older culinary terms "Hotch Potch" or "Hodge Podge" and "Hot pot". I still haven't found any real evidence that they are related, however, in a dialect dictionary from Devon there is a hint that in some instances there was a connection made between the sense of "Hotch Potch" or "Hodge Podge" as a jumble or confusion and a preparation of potatoes. Time will tell is a closer connection can be made between these terms and "Hot-pot".
HAUCHEE-PAUCHEE or ALL TO PAUCH, said of potatoes which have been boiled to a mash (devonshire dialect 1837