This is the Editor’s adaptation of a 1669 recipe from Sir Kenelm Digbie, reproduced in modern format by Maxime McKendry in 1973. When you prepare it this way, the dish has a fresher flavor than its Restoration antecedent.
-2 lb beef chuck or brisket cut into 1½ inch chunks
-3 lb lamb (like neck) on the bone cut into 1½ inch by 2 inch chunks
-2 lb stewing veal cut into 1½ inch chunks
-4 bay leaves
-about 2 quarts beef or veal stock or a combination of them
-8 carrots cut into ½ inch chunks
-generous handful peeled tiny onions
-1 cup chopped parsley
-½ cup chopped basil
-½ cup chopped tarragon
-about ½ lb shredded cabbage
-about 3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
-salt and pepper
- Mix up the meat and put it into a big heavy pot with the bay leaves, then pour enough stock into the pot to rise about 2 inches above the meat.
- Bring the liquid to a hard boil and skim for scum; you may need to skim the surface more than once.
- Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer.
- After ½ hour, add the carrots and onions to the pot, bring it back to a boil, and reduce the heat back to a simmer for another ½ hour.
- Add the herbs and cabbage and simmer the pot until the cabbage is nearly tender, usually in about 20 minutes, then increase the heat to medium low and add the apples.
- Cook until the apples dissolve to thicken the hotchpot, usually in about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer again and check for salt and pepper (you will need them). Serve piping hot in big bowls.
-All you need with the hotchpot is some hot crusty bread. If you must, however, you may also serve some mashed or boiled potatoes.
-Nobody guesses that the hotchpot includes apples to thicken its sauce; people tend to believe something like ginger or allspice gives the dish its undertone of subtle spice.
-Hot sauce and Worcestershire, which had not yet made their appearance circa 1669, are welcome additions; so is a sprinkling of spring onions at the time of service.
-Horseradish, or horseradish sauce, is an excellent accompaniment to the hotchpot but avoid mustard.
-The McKendry recipe cooks the meat whole and dumps everything but the apples into the pot at the outset for a cooking time of 1-1 ½ hours before adding the apples and shredding the meat. That method is not bad, and has the advantage of neglect, but the Editor likes the fresher flavors that evolve when the addition of the vegetables and herbs is staggered throughout the cooking time.
-McKendry also calls for a lot more stock, enough to rise about 6 inches above the meat. That volume is unnecessary.
-Her book, Seven Hundred Years of English Cooking (New York 1973), is a good compilation of historical recipes from some three dozen sources published from the fourteenth through twentieth centuries supplemented by preparations culled from the kitchens of the author’s acquaintances. She was a member of the smart set and a consulting editor at English Vogue, so they include a number of aristocrats and luminaries, Cecil Beaton and David Niven among them.