This rustic lamb braise is a dish we've been cooking at Melbourne's Mr Wolf, on and off, for the past 10 years. And although its origin is Greek - a slight detour from pizza and the other Italian-influenced fare - it fits the style of the restaurant so well. I first ate something like this on Santorini many years ago, and the simplicity of the succulent braised lamb with plenty of oregano, intense tomato flavour, potatoes and a delicious slick of olive oil-laced fat was a revelation. This is one of those dishes that doesn't need embellishments, just some wilted greens, a leafy salad, or both, and plenty of good bread.
1.5-1.8kg boned lamb neck (about 6 pieces)
50g plain flour, seasoned
extra virgin olive oil
3 white onions, sliced
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 fresh bay leaves
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bunch dried Greek oregano, leaves shaken off stalks
2 tsp ground allspice
30g brown sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
500ml dry white wine
1 litre quality chicken stock
4 medium Dutch cream potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 handful fresh breadcrumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced or 180C conventional.
2. Toss the lamb in the seasoned flour. Add a good splash of oil to a large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Shake any excess flour from the lamb and brown all over, seasoning a little as you go. Remove and set aside.
3. Tip the oil from the pan and wipe out with paper towel. Add a splash of oil, the onion, garlic and bay leaves, season, stir, and cook for 15 minutes until sticky and caramelised.
4. Return the lamb to the pot with the oregano, allspice, sugar and tomato paste and stir through. Add the white wine and bring to the boil. Add the stock and passata, bring it to a simmer and add the potato. Sprinkle a handful of breadcrumbs over the top and cover with a lid or baking paper and foil. Place in the oven for two hours.
5. Uncover and cook for an extra 30 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced a little and the meat is tender and colouring up at the edges. Serve from the pot with cooked greens or a leafy salad.
1. Make sure you get good deep colour on the lamb when you brown it; this will add a depth of flavour to the dish that you really can't achieve later.
2. Dried Greek oregano is easy to find at a good delicatessen. The flavour is hard to beat.
3. I prefer fresh bay leaves to dried - the flavour is more harmonious in a finished dish. The pungency of dried leaves can also vary from intense to non-existent, making the results hard to predict.