"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

September 27, 2011

Easy Fall Supper

With all of the canning in these past few weeks and after-school basketball practice and general mayhem around here, I'm starting to wean us back into decent weeknight suppers that are ready by 7pm when everyone walks in the door, or 6pm if an earlier practice. Perhaps the operative phrase would be "weaning myself" into preparing them!

In Lexington last week we got some ground lamb at Critchfield Meats (I now go to Lexington with a large list of supplies, as if we are on a rare wagon train outing to buy and barter in town, which we kind of are: those items we can't find locally––and I do look). I was up there primarily to find some interesting Japanese ingredients for our youngest son's International Food Fest (thank you Hibari Japanese Grocery) and, of course, that invariably led me to Good Foods Market & Café (where we actually got an impromptu sushi lesson!), a requisite stop at Target and the Clinique counter at Dillard's (don't ask: OK, it has to do with a very large age spot on my face––plus it is "free gift" season so you get more bang for the buck), all followed by a marvelous late lunch at Masala out at Beaumont Centre (their lamb rogan josh is divine and, fortunately, my husband agreed: I believe I've now successfully converted my Pond men to the joys of Indian cuisine––baby steps).

There is a fair bit of waste, as with cabbage, but my chickens will be happy!

We could have lamb at least once a week in our family, not including leftovers, but it is still a "treat meat" for us (until we one day, perhaps, raise our own). I usually do a roast and then a curry with the leftovers. This week I decided to make a traditional Shepherd's Pie using ground lamb instead of ground beef. Our oldest son Henry loves Brussels sprouts, as do I. It is also an easy vegetable to prepare. We had some apples around and we're trying to avoid bread, so here's what I did. Dinner was ready and on the table within an hour plus.

Prep Work

The often ill-prepared, and misunderstood,
Brussels sprout is one of my favorite fall vegetables.
Le petit choux est parfait!

  1. Peel and start your potatoes to the boil (my youngest, bless him, peeled about 10 medium potatoes for me). I always throw in a hearty dash of sea salt.
  2. Rinse, peel off the outer layers, and chop off a bit at the stem end of the Brussels sprouts (I only buy fresh). Cut them in half.
  3. Place on a buttered cookie or baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and a bit of cinnamon (this will enhance their flavor after they caramelize in the oven).
  4. Set oven for 400 degrees: you can either roast the Brussels sprouts for 15 minutes first, and keep warm, or cook along with the casserole at 375 degrees. Just watch them as they will roast and caramelize quickly.
My favorite kitchen item is my husband's old farmer friend Norris Patch's "spider" (aka skillet).
He purchased it at a New Hampshire estate sale after Norris passed away many years ago.
It's nicely seasoned and everything is delicious when prepared in it: it's a hefty size, too.

Valley View Farm Shepherd's Pie  
~ Serves 5-6 hungry people (or 8 daintier eaters)
  • 10 medium potatoes (or 5 large)
  • 2 medium onions (or 1 large), chopped fine
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 pounds ground lamb (or ground beef, or even ground turkey)
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • Beef broth (1/2-1 cup)
  • salt and pepper
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 quart +/- corn kernels (canned, frozen or fresh)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • paprika
  1. While potatoes are cooking, sauté onion and minced garlic in large skillet with olive oil or bit of butter. Cook for a few minutes until translucent. 
  2. Add ground lamb and chop together until well browned, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Drain fat as much as you can (not necessary but a good idea).
  4. Add flour and stir to make a roux-like mixture, followed by a 1/2-1 cup water with a beef stock cube (or 1/2-1 cup of beef broth).
  5. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  6. Spoon mixture into greased 2 quart casserole or baking dish.
  7. In same skillet, quickly sauté corn in a 1/2 stick of butter until cooked. Add 1/4 cup cream. Spoon mixture on top of the meat mixture in the dish.
  8. Drain potatoes, if you haven't already, and mash (I use an old-fashioned potato masher) with 1/2 stick of butter and 1/4 cup cream. You can add milk, or half-and-half, but make sure it is whole milk! You can also adjust the quantity of butter and cream/milk to your desired consistency but make sure the potatoes will hold their peak.
  9. Ladle hearty dollops of mashed potatoes on top of the corn layer. Spread a bit, as if frosting a cake, and sprinkle potato topping with paprika. 
  10. Bake in 375 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes [you might want to put a cookie sheet under the dish on the next rack to catch any drips that might "spill over" while cooking.]

While Baking

We're trying to avoid dessert and baked goods (note: trying) so imagine my husband's surprise when he suggested I bake some apples and I said, sure! I've never done this before. I've put them into pie, crisp, cobbler, cookies, cakes and bread. I've made them into applesauce and apple butter. But I've never taken a lovely apple, cored it, set it in a buttered dish, spooned brown sugar into it, added a bit of butter, and sprinkled with cinnamon. And that, my friends, is easier than pie! 

You can throw the apple dish (an old Le Creuset gratin dish or pottery casserole baker works great) in with the main dishes to bake alongside. Just take them out when mushy or bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream, of course! [I had mine with a small, quite decadent, container of Liberté, a favorite plum-fig yogurt that I picked up in Lexington. Thankfully, it is not sold locally because it is rich in both taste, calories and price. A true treat.]

You come back when you're ready! 



  1. I adore brussels sprouts and shepherds pie - it's a Brit thing. Shepherds Pie traditionally contains lamb, while if you use beef it becomes a Cottage Pie. Useful Brit trivia of the day! And I love shopping at Hibari.

  2. Le petit choux est NASTY! I don't care how you cook them, I can't eat them. I love all the other members of the cabbage family but I absolutely HATE these nasty little things. Can't figure it out.


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