I'm going to carry on with the recipe and blather on about it afterward. I truly hate having to scroll through 1500 words of description, then 52 photos of the prep and final presentation.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground lamb (could also be stew pieces)
1 small onion, diced- don't be particular
2 large carrots, diced- again, just get it done
1 bottle of Guinness (other stouts would do- but why would you use anything else??)
1 tablespoon beef base- I use "Better Than Bouillion" because I can get it at the store
1 small can tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce
4-5 medium potatoes- I use russets because that's what I had
1-2 bay leaves
2 whole garlic cloves
4 tablespoons of butter
2oz of cream cheese- a quarter of a block
1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
I start with the potatoes. Fill a medium saucepan about halfway with water. Wash, peel and dice the potatoes into cubes- it really doesn't matter what size because you will test for doneness anyway. Throw the cubes into the saucepan with a few good pinches of salt, the bay leaves, and garlic cloves. Put it over medium-high heat. Check the potatoes for doneness in about 20 minutes. Note: I have an electric stove that takes a while to heat up. If you are cooking on gas, check a little sooner. While the potatoes are cooking, start your filling.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I cook and bake my pie in a skillet. If you are going to bake it in a different pan, go ahead and use some cooking spray to lube the pan up.
Start a 12inch skillet over medium-high heat. Let it heat about 5 minutes, then add the olive oil. It should be rippling right away. Add your lamb, onions, carrots, and garlic and let it sit a minute. Stir and break everything up. Dump in about half the bottle of stout. Mix everything and break up the meat. Stir it occasionally until the meat is no longer pink. Probably 5 minutes or so. Add in the beef base, tomato paste, cinnamon, and Worchestershire sauce. Stir everything together. If it's looking too dry and not stewy-enough, add the rest of the stout. Let this all simmer on the stove about 20 minutes. If the potatoes are done, you can begin preparing them...
After the potatoes are done- they pierce easily with a knife or fork, drain them and add them back to the saucepan. Make sure you remove the bay leaves! Throw in the butter, salt, and cream cheese. Use a potato masher or a fork to break up the potatoes and mix in the butter and cream cheese. Now, because we need these to be loose enough to spread on top of the filling, I add heavy cream until the potatoes are still thick, but spreadable. Taste the potatoes and add more salt or butter if they need it.
If you are cooking your pie in the skillet, just turn the heat off. If you are cooking the pie in a separate pan, pour the filling now. Then dollop the potatoes by big spoonfuls on top of the filling and spread them out. Ideally, they should completely cover the filling, but if they don't, no worries. Smooth out the top as much as you can, then pop in the oven for about 30 minutes. When 30 minutes are up, take the pie out and cover the top with the grated cheese. Return it to the oven. If you just like the cheese melted, set a timer for about 10 minutes. If you like crispy, burnt on the edges cheese, then check after 15 minutes and pull it when it gets to your level of burnedness.
It's best to let the pie sit for at least 15 minutes to solidify a bit and make serving easier. We couldn't wait that long and slopped it into bowls like stew.
So this pie is a wintertime staple in our house. There really is nothing better on a chilly evening. This recipe is the most recent incarnation of this dish. I have been monkeying around with this for years. My sister makes what I consider to be the absolute best shepherds pie of all time. My version is influenced by hers, but not the same. Maybe I can get her recipe and make it so I can post it here. She likes the stew meat better than ground. It's difficult for me to find lamb stew meat where I live, so I just roll with that.
I hope you give this a go and enjoy the fruits of your labor. This really is good.