Ruth's Shepherd's Pie

Bob and Ruth Clifford
I had a recent request for a recipe for Shepherd's Pie.  This is a dish I do not make since my sister Ruth (photo) has what I consider to be the ultimate recipe and I get to enjoy it when we visit her!  It's not a quick and easy recipe but the results are worth the effort. I hope you will like it as much as I do.


5 ½ lb large lamb shanks (4 large) 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, trimmed and quartered (do not peel) 
½ cup fresh thyme sprigs
½ cup fresh rosemary sprigs
½ cup dry white wine
1 ¼ cups beef broth
1 ¼ cups water
3 lb russet (baking) potatoes (6) 
1 ¼ to 1 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup whole milk
5 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
Prepare lamb: Preheat oven to 450°F. 

Put lamb shanks in a large metal roasting pan, then rub with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange onion wedges around lamb. Roast lamb in middle of oven 40 minutes. Turn shanks over, scatter with herb sprigs, and roast 40 minutes more. 

Pour wine, broth, and water into roasting pan. Cover pan tightly with foil and braise lamb until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer shanks to a plate and remove and discard skins from onions. Pour cooking liquid (including onions) into a large glass measure (do not clean roasting pan). 

Prepare potatoes and boil carrots while lamb roasts: Pierce each potato once with a fork and bake on rack in lower third of oven until cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes. 

Cool potatoes 10 minutes, then halve lengthwise and scoop out flesh. Force warm potatoes through ricer into a bowl. Stir in salt, milk, and pepper to taste.

Cook carrots in boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Rinse under cold running water to stop cooking. 

Make gravy: Skim fat from cooking liquid (you'll have about 2 1/2 cups broth). Whisk together 1 cup broth and flour in a large bowl to make a thin paste, then whisk in remaining broth (including onions). Set roasting pan across 2 burners and pour broth mixture into pan. Boil over moderate heat, whisking, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. 

Cut lamb meat from bones, then tear meat into bite-size pieces. Stir meat into gravy. 
Assemble and bake pie: Reduce oven to 350°F. 

Spoon lamb-shank mixture into a 12- by 3-inch oval gratin dish or a 2 ½ - to 3-quart shallow baking dish, spreading evenly. Scatter carrots over lamb, then top with mashed potatoes, spreading evenly to edges of dish to cover filling completely. Make swirl patterns on surface of potatoes with back of spoon, then drizzle with melted butter. 

Shortbread-Traditional Scottish Style

My Mom and I 1950 on Highlands tour
As a Scot, shortbread was the first thing I learned to bake. Growing up during the war in Scotland, sugar, butter (and everything else!) was severely rationed and families saved and saved to be able to bake a few treats for Christmas.

Shortbread was always at the top of the list. I have to tell you about one year when the shortbread was a disaster. In those days we didn't have supermarkets where everything was prepackaged as it is today. You went to the store and the grocer weighed out what you wanted, be it sugar, salt, flour, split peas, tea, etc.

Everything came in identical blue bags, neatly folded at the top but, of course, there were no labels. Well, one year my grandmother made the shortbread but when we tasted it.....she had mistaken the salt for the sugar!

As with many ethnic recipes, you will find that every family has its own variation. With shortbread, some families use cornstarch with the flour, others use fine semolina. I have changed our family recipe a little over the years to include rice flour* as I find it adds a delicious "shortness". I hope you will enjoy it.

Preheat oven to 325°

½ lb. unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
2¼ cups flour
¾ cup rice flour

Using a food process or mixer, cream the butter and sugar well.  Add the flour and process or mix until a dough forms.

Knead by hand to form a ball.  Divide in thirds and pat into  three 7inch tart pans.  Crimp the edges as demonstrated and prick with a fork.  Bake at  for 20 to 25 minutes or just until shortbread starts to color.  Remove from oven, sprinkle lightly with sugar and cut into wedges.



These delicious French pancakes are deceptively simple to make and great to have on hand for a quick dessert or entreé.  I first tasted these as a child when my grandmother would make them for a special treat with afternoon tea.  They were just called pancakes and were served sprinkled with lemon juice and sugar and rolled up.  There is no limit to what you can fill them with:  sauteéd apples with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, Nutella and sliced bananas, sliced strawberries with a little sour cream - the possibilities are endless!

1 cup flour

4 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
pinch of salt
1½ cups milk
Softened butter for cooking

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until well mixed.  Allow mixture to stand at room temperature for about an hour.  Transfer to a bowl and stir.

Line a counter with a long sheet of waxed paper.

Heat a crepe pan over medium/high heat and butter lightly.  Use a scant ¼ cup of batter for each crepe.  Pour into pan and quickly swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until crepe is lightly browned then turn over and cook for a minute or so on the second side.  Turn out onto the waxed paper and repeat with remaining batter.  Makes about 16 crepes.

After the crepes have cooled you may stack them.  They can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days or they can be frozen.  You may reheat them in a microwave or tightly wrapped in foil in a regular oven.

For savory crepes, simply omit the rum and sugar.  You may add finely chopped herbs to the batter if desired.


A visit to an Olive Oil shop

On a recent visit to Vermont to visit our daughter and her family, we spent a lovely afternoon browsing the shops in Burlington.  We stopped in the newest shop which is the Saratoga Olive Oil Co.  Olive oil from Saratoga New York???  Yes indeed.  

Saratoga Olive Oil Company is a family business owned and operated by Clint Braidwood, Barbara Braidwood and Chad Braidwood. Their goal is to provide the consumer with the freshest Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the world. They  follow the olive crush in the northern and southern hemispheres "to provide the consumer with the most recently produced and healthiest oils available anywhere."

After tasting our way through half a dozen different oils and vinegars, I ended up with a lemon infused olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar - it was a real toss up between that and the chocolate balsamic!  I have already used the oil to roast asparagus - delicious! I also plan to use it to toss with spaghetti and black pepper.  I think the fig balsamic will go well with pork but the crostini recipe at the company’s website sounds really great.

Check this company out - they do mail order.

Here are a few more photos;

Burlington Storefront
A tasting station

Chopped Chicken Livers

After I had completed the video accompanying this recipe I remembered where my fondness for this dish came from.  I can't remember the first time I tasted it, but apparently it was love at first taste because when I was pregnant with our first daughter, my one and only craving was for chopped liver!  I was working at the time, and at least twice a week I would order a chopped liver sandwich for lunch!  It came on toast garnished with thinly sliced onions.  I don't remember how the onion affected my co-workers, but I was in chopped liver heaven.

My Aunt Nessie was the one who taught me how to make it and it was from her that I learned the technique of grating the liver rather than chopping it.  Of course back then there were no food processors - everything was grated on a box grater.  How far we have come!

Chopped Chicken Livers

1 pound chicken livers
1 large onion, chopped
2 eggs, hard boiled and roughly chopped
¼ cup chicken fat or butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Drain the chicken livers and remove any connective tissue, dark or green spots.
Melt the fat in a large skillet and sauté the onions until soft.  Add the cleaned livers and cook until the livers are just pink in the center.  This will take 10 to 15 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste and mix in the eggs.  Using the large grating blade of a food processor, grate the mixture.

Transfer to a bowl and stir to combine.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Pack into a serving dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Serve with crackers, rounds of toasted baguette or matzoh.


Eggs-Perfectly Poached...Perfectly Hardboiled

I admit to having a huge collection of cooking equipment but few things annoy me more than unnecessary "gadgets".  One of my current pet peeves are gadgets for poaching eggs.  There are quite a number of them on the market and none of them are inexpensive. 

Poaching eggs is about as simple as cooking gets - simmering water, very fresh eggs, a little vinegar and you're done!

Making perfect hard boiled eggs is a simple matter of timing.  Cover your eggs with an inch of cold water, bring to a boil, shut off the heat, cover the eggs and leave for 10 minutes.  Drain and cover with cold water and ice.



Turning those hard boiled eggs into beautiful deviled eggs which don't require a special deviled egg platter just means cutting the eggs vertically instead of horizontally.  Cut a tiny slice off each end so that your eggs will "stand up".

For the filling for four eggs:

4 hard boiled egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
a few drops of hot sauce

Mix well and spoon or pipe into the egg whites.  Garnish with a tiny bit of parsley, sliced olive and red pepper and a few grains of cayenne pepper or paprika.