Books For Cooks: Shepherd’s Pie

By MaryAnn Miano

Mother Hubbard’s Cook Book, by Marion White, is a delightful recipe book from The Catherine Henning Cookbook Collection at the Colts Neck Library. If you recall the nursery rhyme of Old Mother Hubbard, she went to the cupboard but the cupboard was bare. The author’s approach to her recipes in this book is to think of people who have survived in spite of bare cupboards. Dry summers and lean winters forced our great-grandparents to collect, out of necessity, the best food ideas.  Recall the Puritans who learned new ideas in cooking by the Indians who taught them.

Remember a time when those like Mother Hubbard couldn’t take advantage of quick-freezing and dehydrating foods. The Mother Hubbard in this book reinvents the pound cake by using honey or maple syrup if there is no sugar and substituting other fats if there is no butter. If ingredients such as butter and cream are scarce, the author tells you how to use a good mayonnaise as the base for a special sauce, even using Hollandaise that will not curdle.

The recipes in Mother Hubbard’s are foolproof. If both food and time are scarce, you won’t have to waste a bit of either. That was Mother Hubbard’s way from the nursery rhyme, and we can follow her advice. The recipes in this collection are also easy on the budget.

The simplicity of the recipes in this book will encourage the non-gourmet cook to have fun in the kitchen. The recipe for “Magic Chocolate Layer Cake” will take the fear out of scratch cake, with ingredients such as shortening, flour, sugar, egg, milk, sweetened condensed milk and chocolate squares. The pancake and waffle recipe from scratch are equally as easy. Classics such as goulash, shepherd’s pie, beef stew, and meatloaf will give you great weekday dinner planning. Ideas for vegetable dishes are as simple as potato cakes made with leftover mashed potatoes and an egg.

A chapter labeled “American Staples” features corn and beans, two products produced bountifully in our land, and there are chapters that teach how to make dough and how to make the best desserts and dessert sauces. Entire chapters are devoted to eggs, salads and snacks, and cooking with wine. Try the following recipe as a sample from Mother Hubbard’s Cook Book:

SHEPHERD’S PIE

2 cups diced leftover beef

3 onions

2 large carrots

2 cups gravy

2 cups mashed potatoes

Place beef, onions (cut in eighths) and carrots (cut in 1” pieces) in casserole dish. Pour gravy over this. (If no gravy is available, make it by dissolving 2 bouillon cubes in 2 cups boiling water and thickening with 3 tablespoons flour dissolved in ½ cup cold water.)

Top with mashed potatoes, spread evenly across the casserole and dot with butter. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) for about thirty minutes, until potatoes are browned. (For a richer crust, beat 1 egg into the mashed potatoes.)

Recipe from Mother Hubbard’s Cook Book, Page 37, By Marion White:  M.S. Mill Co., Inc.  1944.