Country Cottage Comfort Food:
Nanny’s Pan Haggerty
Layers of meltingly tender potatoes, tasty onion slices and molten cheese in one pan, that’s what “Pan Haggerty” is all about, a frugal “end of week” family dish that resonates with me on every comfort food level. I was raised on food like this, and simple though it may be, it filled our tummies and tantalised our taste buds, it was like a big cuddle in a frying pan and to this day this humble dish remains a firm favourite of mine. This one pan meal is perfect when accompanied by a wedge of Stotty Cake and steamed, buttered Savoy cabbage, although we always enjoy it with fresh salads leaves now. It’s easy to make and is one of my family’s most loved recipes, and although no recipe as such was ever written down, I have watched both my grandmother and my mum make it many times, so it is fixed in my memory.
Pan Haggerty is not to be confused with another “Geordie” dish which my grandmother and mother used to make, “Panackelty”, which is similar to Pan Haggerty but is made with potatoes, onions and meat in some form or another – usually bacon, lamb chops or corned beef and is usually baked in the oven and not cooked on top of the stove. Both dishes are born of frugality and the need to feed your family with hearty and nutritious fare, but pan haggerty is the cheaper of the two dishes as it uses cheese and cheese used to be known as “poor man’s meat”, as it was cheaper than meat – not so today I know.
As I mentioned before, the family recipe for this dish has never been written down anywhere, although mum thinks she does have an old letter somewhere, where her mum (my grandmother) told her how to make it when she was newly married and living away from home. Although it is often called a “Geordie” dish, it is known throughout the North East, and was very popular in mining communities for a quick and tasty supper for the man of the family. Our family recipe uses Cheshire cheese, but any cheese can be used in this recipe, such as Cheddar, Lancashire or Wensleydale.
Although it is a one pan meal, it also makes a fabulous accompaniment to other meals such as sausages and pies…….as well as cold cuts and cooked meats. I hope that you enjoy this dish as much as my family have over the years and as Christmas is only three or four months away now, I can heartily recommend this North Eastern dish for a simple festive supper when served with chutney and pickles, or even for Boxing Day brunch. My lasting memory of this dish is my grandmother cooking this on an old range cooker in her country cottage in Northumberland; I hope you create memories as happy as mine when you cook this. Karen
Pan Haggerty or Panhaggerty
One Pot Meals
Alternate layers of thinly sliced potato, then onion, then grated cheese (usually Cheddar, Cheshire or Lancashire) cooked in a shallow pan, most traditionally with meat flavours such as beef dripping, or bacon fat, but now commonly with a mixture of butter and oil. Small meat pieces, chopped bacon or corned beef, may be included in some versions, though such might more properly be termed Panakelty. Grilled, or turned over in the pan, when cooked to give a crisp topping.
This dish is now sufficiently popular to have gained the nickname ‘Pan hag’, but its origin remains entirely obscure. It does not appear in any early cookbooks, and it is often said to have come to prominence in mining communities during the ‘hungry’ 1930’s, but there is no direct evidence for this. It does, however, seem to be the case that the name became popular following the broadcast of the play ‘The Episode of the Pan-haggerty’ by FE Doran on the BBC’s Northern Service in July 1936.
The name possibly derives from ‘hashed’ as in ‘chopped’, or from ‘ragged’ for its irregular appearance.
Just like the very similar French ‘gratin’ there is a distinct tradition that Panhaggerty should always be served from the vessel it was cooked in, and ‘panhin’, is an old English word for a small cooking pan.