Try this for a winter warmer
With all those much-anticipated Christmas food sensations a fast-fading memory as you start your new term, why not try this recipe for a truly delicious meal that doesn’t cost the earth? If you’re sharing a Manchester Student Houses home and a group of you are feeling sociable enough to actually sit down and eat together (you know, the way families used to do in the olden days), then we can guarantee this will be eagerly anticipated by your co-inhabitants. In fact, it’ll have you all salivating in anticipation of the next one. It’s one of the simplest dishes around. It’s a cheesy hotpot.
You’ll need a good quality casserole dish and these ingredients, in varying quantities according to how many people are being fed. You might even need two or more dishes if you’re in one of the larger MSH houses and everybody is hungry:
Some extra mature Cheddar cheese
Some soft crumbly cheese such as Cheshire or Wensleydale
Around a quarter to half a pint of milk
A large, wide casserole dish (don’t compromise on this – you need a fair surface area at the top for maximum tastiness).
Slice the potatoes and onions as thinly as you can without slicing your fingers as well. Place a layer of potatoes across the bottom of the dish. Place a layer of onions on top and season lightly.
Slice the soft cheese (you won’t even need to grate it) and put a layer on top of the onions. Repeat this process again, remembering to season again, but then add the Cheddar as the top layer. Make sure it completely covers the onions, and you can even push it slightly down the side of the dish to ensure that it goes crispy when cooked. Pour a generous amount of milk over the top to keep the hotpot moist while cooking. Put the lid on, obviously.
Now, this is the essence of a good cheesy hotpot – it needs to cook slowly, for quite a long time. Set the oven at around 130 deg C and cook for around 2 – 2.5 hours. This is because the potatoes and onions need to, in effect, simmer and blend with the cheeses to become soft and bring out their full flavour. After 2 – 2.5 hours, take the lid off, turn the oven up higher to around 180 deg C and cook for a further half-hour, during which time the top will get browner. The more it browns, the tastier it’ll be – that’s why you need that good dollop of milk, to stop it drying out during this final stage. (Sorry, but the aroma will be absolutely excruciating while you’re waiting to eat). Finally, to make the most of all that heat in the oven, put one crusty bread roll per person on the shelf for the last few minutes to heat up.
Then, if the new term’s loan will stand it, crack open a bottle of Merlot or Shiraz to accompany. It could be Lidl’s latest cheapo offer; the quality really doesn’t matter because your taste buds will be totally preoccupied with the cheesy hotpot sensation. The only real drawback is washing the casserole dish afterwards. Even if you soak it overnight in hot water and detergent, it’ll still need a fair bit of scrubbing. It’s a real bummer but, even as you’re doing it, all those lovely aromas will still be wafting up as a reminder of the night before. Enjoy!