1 lb. of ground lamb
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pepper to taste (four turns of my pepper mill normally does the trick)
1 bottle of flavorful beer (I happened to have Bell's Oberon on hand)
3 cups beef stock (If you're using a no/very low sodium stock, you may need to add some salt)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 medium carrots, chopped
2/3 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
1 Tbsp semolina
Mashed potatoes (about 5 medium potatoes worth. I usually just go with the plain butter and milk variety that might remind you of the ones your grandmother might make.)
- Over medium-high heat, brown the lamb, onions, garlic, and pepper in a large sauce pan.
- Add the beer, stock, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and allow the meat to stew for about 4 hours. Check it occasionally and give it a stir, but by and large you can trust the lamb, liquid, and seasonings to play nicely with each other. If you find that the liquid is evaporating too quickly simply add some water and/or stock. (The cooking time for this step can easily be cut by 2 or even 3 hours. The flavor and tenderness of the meat simply build the longer you let it simmer. And besides, shepherd's pie is best served on days that could benefit from the gentle heat coming from a slowly simmering pot.)
- Stir in the carrots and peas and remove the lid. Turn the heat up to medium to get the liquid to start evaporating.
- Allow the mixture to reduce for roughly half an hour before sprinkling in the semolina to thicken it. When adding the semolina, it's best to do so very slowly and while dusting it into a thin layer on the surface of the liquid. That way you can stir it in easily without any danger of starchy lumps. This would also be a good time to preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Let the mixture continue to cook down until it's a thick, rich broth that only just seems to keep all the goodness in the pot in suspension.
- Transfer the content of the pot into an ovenproof casserole dish. I typically go for a 9x9x2.5 pan. (Alternately, you could begin the whole process in a dutch oven or other stove-top-to-oven vessel. Just keep in mind that having a large surface area will call for more mashed potatoes to "crust" the pie.)
- Use a piping bag or a steady hand and a spatula to pipe/spread an even layer of mashed potatoes onto the lamb mixture.
- Put the casserole into the over and allow to bake for 35 minutes or until the potatoes start to turn brown. Using your broiler for the last 3-4 minutes of the cooking time will create a lovely golden potato crust.