• Roast lamb Roman style

    Roast lamb Roman style

    This is a very, very tasty dish. The ingredients are simple enough but collectively they pull together to deliver a hearty, winter-themed flavour. It is based on a dish of baby lamb demonstrated by Melbourne chef Guy Grossi at one of his masterclasses.

    Having cooked it for friends or more than one occasion it remains a firm favourite for its easy one-pot method, delicious flavour and grand presentation at the table in the cooking vessel. In my case that’s a huge, heavy, cast iron fry-pan bought from a sporting/camping goods store. This fabulous receptacle just fits into my generously-sized Australian made oven filled with enough lamb and potatoes to feed eight people. If you have a prissy European oven or no single large baking dish, but still need to feed the multitudes, decamp it into two dishes. You’ll need more liquid than is stated for the one pot version.

    With no baby lamb available my butcher kindly jointed some lamb shoulder and neck meat into large serving chunks. We conspired to leave the bone in, in a departure from Grossi’s original, but it still worked a treat.

    Real baby lamb will cook in a little over an hour especially if it is boned. Standard lamb with the bone left in will take a couple of hours in a moderate to low oven. You can part cook the dish ahead up to the stage of sprinkling over the breadcrumbs and parmesan. Available light fading fast on an overcast afternoon, the photograph here was taken after barely an hour’s cooking with another half or so to go before the addition of the crumb topping but you’ll get the idea of how glorious the final presentation is topped with golden crumbs.
    The dish deserves a great wine – hard to go past Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico

    The Recipe

    Roast lamb Roman style (for eight)
    2.2kg lamb from shoulder and neck cut into about 20 serving sized chunks, bone in
    2 onions, chopped
    6 cloves garlic, cut into quarters
    8 rosemary springs
    8 sage leaves
    good handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
    1 large fresh red chilli, chopped
    salt and pepper
    6-8 medium sized waxy-fleshed potatoes, cut into large chunks
    400g tin Italian chopped tomatoes and their juice
    1 cup extra virgin oil
    half bottle dry white wine
    100g grated Parmesan
    200g fresh breadcrumbs
    extra sprigs of rosemary
    Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Mix together the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
    Drizzle a little of the oil over the base of a heavy, wide, baking dish. Place the lamb in the dish and scatter over the onion, garlic, sage, rosemary, parsley and chilli. Season generously with salt (more than you think) and black pepper and pour over half the remaining olive oil. Massage the lamb pieces with all the seasonings. Tuck the potatoes among the lamb pieces. Spoon over the tomatoes and juice. Pour over the white wine and then drizzle with the rest of the olive oil.
    Add enough water to come about half way up the lamb pieces. This will provide moisture during cooking and will allow for some delicious juices at the end of the cooking time. Cook for about an hour and a half, turning the lamb and potatoes around in the cooking juices from time to time.
    Sprinkle over the crumb mix. Place back in the oven for another hour or until the crust is golden and the lamb is cooked. Top up with water from time to time to keep the lamb moist and some serving juices in the pan. Tuck in a few fresh rosemary sprigs here and there just before serving.
    Serve in the cooking vessel with a green vegetable or salad on the side.