Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd’s Pie)

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableApulia is the southern Italian region which makes up the “heel” of the boot after which the country of Italy is likened. The area was once known as the Wine Cellar of Europe and today, their olive oils are much coveted by the cognoscenti . Their food espouses that wonderful Mediterranean diet of olive oil, fresh vegetables, fresh fish and shellfish, pasta and regional cheeses. The meat of choice is lamb or kid which is grilled, roasted or baked which brings me to this recipe for Agnello e Patate al Forno which translates to Lamb and Potatoes of the Oven or an Italian version of Shepherd’s Pie!

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableIt’s from a wonderful book called Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti which I have had for many more years than I care to remember.  Over those years, I have made many a recipe from it but this is the one that gets made time and time again. Italian cooking is cooking from the heart. It is all about excellent quality ingredients generally cooked simply and without fuss and this ethos completely appeals to me. This recipe depends on flavoursome lamb, tasty fresh tomatoes, good pecorino cheese, good wine and fresh herbs. I have made it with and without wine – it is better with, of course. I tend to use lamb neck fillet as despite being tender, it has a lot of flavour and cooks a little more quickly than other cuts. The dish comes together in about 15 minutes and cooks for 1 – 1.5 hours depending on the cut of meat used.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableI start by pre-heating the oven to 200C/400F and placing a couple slices of bread in it to toast for the bread crumbs. I set the timer for 5 minutes too so that I don’t forget about them! Then I place the garlic, the cheese and the herbs in a small processor and blitz until the mixture resembles green crumbs, which is set aside. Once the bread is out and has cooled, I tear this up and blitz it too and mix it into the cheese and herb mixture. I peel and cut up the potatoes, dice the tomatoes and chop the lamb. A little olive oil is judiciously poured into a baking dish, into which the lamb, potatoes and tomatoes are tumbled about, seasoned and covered with the herbed breadcrumb mixture. A little wine is poured in and a little water to come halfway up the potatoes. At this point I like to pull up bits of lamb to poke through so that the tops get nice and crispy while the underneath braises in the delicious wine and tomato juices and gets melting tender. A little olive oil is then lightly drizzled over the top and it goes into the oven to cook, undisturbed for an hour or so.  In the past, I have used stock for all the liquid if wine was not at hand and also added lemon zest to herb mixture and the juice to the liquid. It smells amazing as it cooks and benefits from resting for a few minutes after coming out of the oven. Served with a peppery rocket salad, it’s a lovely meal at this time of the year.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's Table

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie)

  • Servings: serves 3 people or 2 generously, with left overs
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from  Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti

INGREDIENTS

  • 35g pecorino cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary – about 5g of needles
  • 25g fresh parsley including the stalks
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • pepper
  • 25g fresh bread crumbs
  •  500g potatoes (floury or waxy – both types are fine here)
  • 400g – 500g lamb neck fillet or lean lamb
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • salt
  • 100ml approx of white or red wine
  • 100ml approx of water or stock
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley and pecorino cheese to serve.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. If you are making your own bread crumbs, which I recommend, then place the bread slices in the oven to dry out for 5 minutes while the oven is heating up. In my experience, it is best to set a timer so that you don’t forget about them!
  2. Chop the pecorino into cubes, peel the garlic and strip the needles off the rosemary. Place in a small processor and blitz until it’s crumbly. Add the parsley and oregano and blitz again. Scrape out and set aside. When the bread has been in the oven for 5 minutes, remove to cool, then tear up and blitz into crumbs. Stir into the herb and cheese mixture and grind over lots of freshly milled pepper. Mix well.
  3. Smear the bottom of an oven proof dish with a little olive oil. Mine is about 9″ x 5″.
  4. Peel and chop the potatoes into smaller chunks that you would for a roast. So the larger ones into about 8 equal sized pieces and smaller ones into 4 and place in the dish. Cut the lamb, across the grain in similar sizes to the potatoes. Dice the tomatoes keeping them chunky. Tumble the lot into the dish and season with a good sprinkle of salt. Arrange so that bits of lamb and potato are poking through.
  5. Carefully pour in the wine and water, tilting the dish so that the liquid is evenly distributed. It should come halfway up the potatoes.
  6. Shake over the breadcrumb mixture to cover the top evenly and drizzle over a little olive oil.
  7. Cook in the oven for 1 – 1½ hours or until the potatoes are cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes then sprinkle over some fresh parsley and shaved pecorino before serving.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Braised Stuffed Rolled Shoulder of Springbok or Venison

Braised and Stuffed Shoulder of Springbok

Braised and Stuffed Shoulder of Springbok with Couscous Stuffed Red Peppers and Roasted Asparagus

To say that I am having a wonderful time in Cape Town would be an understatement! The glorious scenery and the fabulous weather aside, the food culture is fantastic. There are so many artisanal producers, independent shops and eclectic cafes, bistros and restaurants, all as a matter of course, that it is somewhat of a gastronomic wonderland.

My favourite restaurant has been the Pot Luck Club & Gallery which is housed in a glass box on top of an old silo at the old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock.

The Pot Luck and Gallery housed in a glass box on the sixth floor of an old silo at the Biscuit Mill in Woodstock

The Pot Luck & Gallery housed in a modern glass box on the sixth floor of an old silo at the Biscuit Mill in Woodstock.

The Biscuit Mill in Woodstock

The Biscuit Mill in Woodstock

Brain child of award winning chef Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen downstairs, the aim to to offer tasting plates of Asian influenced food which make the most of what is on offer in the market. The food is sensational – beautifully presented and intensely flavoured. The smoked beef fillet with black pepper and truffle “café au lait” sauce was sublime. The mushrooms served on brioche with sherry vinaigrette, grated lemon, parmesan and porcini dust were gorgeous as were the  calamari in a curry flavoured batter, the oysters with a ponzu jelly, the duck spring rolls…gorgeous cocktails, friendly and helpful service and wonderful company.

Oysters with Ponzu Jelly at Pot Luck Club

Oysters with Ponzu Jelly at Pot Luck Club

And the butchers here are quite something as well. Take a look at The Butcher Man. They have an eat-in/take away grill bar, a biltong bar, a deli, pre packed and gourmet meat as well as a glassed in butchery section at the back where you can see the two professional butchers originally from Yorkshire at work. Visiting this butchery inspired me to cook springbok shanks but on the day I wanted to cook them, they were not in available. So after ringing round, we ended up with a shoulder of Springbok from Frankie Fenners Meat Merchants who have just moved to new premises. And what premises they are! Painted black, with another glassed in butchery area, serving coffee and with an alcohol licence, sourcing and selling ethically produced meat and charcuterie…it is quite simply stunning. Having spoken to Andy on the phone they had prepared the shoulder by boning and rolling and had it waiting for us to collect.

Even the butchers paper from Frankie Fenner's is fab

Even the butchers paper from Frankie Fenner is fab

When cooking with game a little sweetness is desirable and Andy advised that I add some apricots to the stuffing and braise the meat for a couple of hours. I am not a fan of fruit with meat but I did as he suggested and and found it delicous.

I do something similar with lamb shoulder which I simply roast. As game does not have the fat that lamb has, braising it slowly is the way to go.

It is easy to make especially if the meat has been prepared for you. All you have to do is make the paste, smear it on the meat, cover with the stuffing ingredients, roll up, secure, cover and braise, adding more water after an hour if it has evaporated.

Butterflied springbok shoulder - so lean...

Butterflied springbok shoulder – so lean…

Shoulder with stuffing spread on it

Shoulder with stuffing spread on it

Rolled and tied Springbok shoulder

Rolled and tied Springbok shoulder

Meat resting on the board

Meat resting on the board

Arty shot of the Stuffed Shoulder of Sprinkbok

Arty shot of the Stuffed Shoulder of Sprinkbok

Jus with additional wine and blueberry coulis bubbling on the hob

Jus with additional wine and blueberry coulis bubbling on the hob

Ready to carve

Ready to carve. Beautiful 5 year old wine in the background, all dusty from the cellar!

Carving

Carving

The first slice

The first slice

Braised and Stuffed Shoulder of Springbok

Braised Stuffed Rolled Shoulder of Springbok

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 1kg of rolled shoulder of springbok or venison
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup bulgar wheat or couscous
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives
  • 1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 4-5 sprigs of rosemary
  • half a dozen cloves of unpeeled garlic
  • 400ml of hot water with half a stock cube dissolved in it
  • 1/3 bottle of red wine
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp blueberry or redcurrant jelly
  • 1/4 – 1/3 more red wine

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
  2. Open out the rolled (butterflied) shoulder of game. Check carefully for shot and and trim away any bruising and connective tissue that the butcher may have left behind.
  3. Whizz together the garlic, rosemary, anchovies and oil so that you have a creamy paste and smear all over the inside of the shoulder.
  4. Sprinkle over the (raw) bulgar wheat or couscous
  5. Cover this with the chopped apricots, olives and tomatoes.
  6. Lay as many pieces of string as you think you will need in your oven dish – we used 6 or 7 –  then roll up the meat, lay on top of the string and secure. Tuck in any fallen bits of stuffing back into the roll where ever you can.  You might find that you need to secure the roll with more string.
  7. Tuck the sprigs of rosemary under the meat and scatter round the unpeeled cloves of garlic. Drizzle the top of the meat with a small amount of olive oil and season with pepper. Do not add any salt as there is plenty in the anchovies and the stock. Pour round the stock and the red wine. Cover tightly and cook in the oven for 2 hours. Check after an hour and replenish liquid with hot water from the kettle if  much has evaporated.
  8. After 2 hours, remove the meat to a board and cover loosely with foil. Leave to rest for 20/30 mins. If you making any roasted vegetables, this is the time to turn up the heat and put them into the oven. I oven roasted some lightly oiled asparagus for 15 minutes and finished off the Couscous Stuffed Red Peppers while the meat was resting.
  9. You should have a small amount of unctuous, deeply savoury jus in the roasting dish. Pick out the rosemary and pour in the additional wine. Place on the hob and bring to a boil, stirring all the while. Reduce for at least 5 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Stir in the jelly, tasting as you do so to balance the flavour.
  10. Cut off the string and carve the shoulder into 1 cm-ish slices.
  11. Serve with the delicious slightly sweet and savoury jus, making sure that everyone gets some of the garlic as well.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to