This is a multi-part recipe that is best done over a couple of days. I'm giving approximate measurements because the amount of lamb you get off of a bag of cooked bone-in neck and rib pieces will vary. You can also change the seasonings around. This would have been just as delicious with Madras curry powder as it was with a ton of sage and thyme.
The pastry is a breeze, and wonderful to handle, provided you let it chill for several hours and only bring out as much as you can roll quickly. If it gets the tiniest bit soft, the cream cheese will get gummy-and you don't want that. So keep it chilled and roll quickly.
I made three dozen puffs for the freezer, and plenty of the mixture left over to be served over noodles for dinner. You could toss extra into pot pies, a burrito, or use it as the base for a barley soup. You get the idea.
For the money, this makes a tonne of food-but be warned, it is quite a bit of work and time.
To Cook the Lamb:
2 1/4 pounds of bone-in lamb necks and ribs
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
Oil for browning
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper
Heat a small amount of oil in a heavy pot/Dutch oven. Dredge the lamb in flour, salt and pepper and brown well on all sides (work in batches adding more oil if needed) and remove to a plate. When all the lamb is browned, add a bit more oil and add the onion, garlic, rosemary, and peppercorns. Cook until onion softens a bit and then return the lamb to the pot. Add enough water to cover and bring to a simmer. Skim any yuckiness (you won't get it all, but no big deal, you can skim here and there as it cooks)and simmer on low heat until fork tender-about two to three hours.
When lamb is tender, place a strainer over a large, heatproof bowl and strain, reserving liquid. Remove lamb pieces to a baking sheet and let cool. Strain the liquid again through a cheesecloth lined sieve and set the strained liquid aside.
When lamb is cool enough to handle, carefully begin removing the pieces from the bone. At this point, you can either shred the meat fine with your fingers, or just leave it in chunks. I do a bit of both, but that's a matter of taste. I also pull off the extra fat, but again, do as you see fit.
When you have removed all the meat from the bones, being heating about a tablespoon of solid vegetable shortening in a heavy frying pan. You can use oil, or lard, but I really believe I get the best results from the shortening. When melted, add the meat and fry it for a minute or two over medium heat to soak up the fat, and dry a bit. Slowly, add the reserved broth to the pan and simmer until just about all the liquid has been absorbed. Cool, and refrigerate until needed.
To make the filling:
5 carrots, peeled and diced very tiny
5-6 small red potatoes, diced small
About 1/2 cup chopped fresh sage (this is quite a bit-adjust as you like)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
10 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
Boil the potatoes in a small pan until just tender-they should still have firmness to them. Drain.
In a large frying pan, heat the butter over medium heat and cook the carrots, shallots, garlic and sage until softened. Add the potatoes and thyme. Cook until potatoes are soft and then add the reserved lamb. Mix well and cook a few more minutes for flavours to combine. Cool and refrigerate until needed.
For the pastry:
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the flour and knead by hand until combined. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill until ready to use-but at least four hours.
Roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Using a round biscuit cutter, cut out circles. Roll each circle, as you need them again with a pin until they are larger and about 1/4 inch thick. Fill with a bit of the lamb mixture and crimp closed. Prick the tops to vent and place on an ungreased baking sheet. When you have a sheet filled, transfer to the fridge to keep cool until ready to bake. You can also freeze them a few at a time on a plate before transferring to freezer bags with waxed paper between layers. Then, just bake from frozen when you need them.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and bake puffs 10-15 minutes or until nicely browned.