Italian Lamb

Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Louise Liebenberg

THERE is a level of inertia that necessarily goes along with a New Year’s weekend and mine and hubby Salvelio’s was spent enjoying a telethon of television cookery programmes and fantasising about all the new dishes we would try on The Global Table blog in 2011.

The one that got us off the couch and into the kitchen was from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean series, now showing on BBC Lifestyle.

In Mediterranean Escapes Stein continues his amazing culinary journey, setting off from Marseilles where his French Odyssey series ended and heading for the Mediterranean coast.

Along the way he seeks out all those qualities that make food from this region so special – from fresh, locally-grown ingredients that have ripened naturally under the Mediterranean sun, to the age-old tradition of growing what you know best and cooking in a way that is simple, honest and satisfying.

Stein travels to Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Puglia, on to Corfu, Mallorca and Catalonia and then Morocco and Turkey, trying out traditional recipes and local delicacies wherever he goes.

Being a big fan of this charming English chef, restaurateur and television presenter who is now in his 60s, and having recently soaked up the stunning French and Far Eastern “Odysseys” on DSTV, we couldn’t wait to try the wonderful layered lamb dish from the Italian region of Puglia as featured on Mediterranean Escapes.

Puglia, or Apulia, is the south-east of the country, its southern section forming a high heel on the “boot” of Italy.

Given most shops were already closed, we were lucky to have most of the ingredients on hand – and what we didn’t have we could easily improvise on. You simply layer lamb, potato, parsley and parmesan (in Puglia they use both parmesan and pecorino but we’d run out) along with garlic and cherry tomatoes, seasoning the layers with salt and pepper and drizzling with olive oil.

Apparently in Puglia the dish is made using very young spring lamb – good luck trying to find that here in South Africa, unless you know a farmer who is happy to do the deed – and new potatoes.

We settled for lamb knuckles instead, which seemed to work fine, although Stein’s book – which is still on my wishlist even though it was published in 2007 – suggests boneless leg lamb cut into cubes.

We whacked the whole lot into a flat-bottomed “potjie” and stuck it in the Weber – and it turned out downright delicious – but you could also do it in your oven.

Scroll down for the recipe below!

Layered lamb, potato and tomato dish from Puglia

No measurements for the ingredients were provided in Stein’s programme and so Salvelio and I used our discretion when making the dish; using the quantities we went for you can easily feed three people, so doubling our recipe should be ample for six – I would say allow about 200g of meat per person. The TV recipe did not include the bayleaves and rosemary but these added good flavour.


600g of lamb; 6 medium-sized potatoes; 4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped; 2 cups of parmesan cheese, grated; two cupped handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved (about 300g – or use the same weight but with big, skinned tomatoes); bunch of fresh, flat-leaf parsley, chopped; 4 bayleaves; 2 sticks of rosemary; salt and freshly-ground black pepper for seasoning; olive oil.


First get your Weber (kettle-braai) fired up – if using the oven, pre-heat to 180 degrees C.

Place a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of your casserole dish or “potjie”.

Spread about a third of the potatoes over and season.

Make another layer using half the meat; season.

Cover the meat with a layer using half the tomatoes, parsley and garlic; season as needed.

Now add half the cheese and another drizzle of olive oil.

Add another third of the potatoes, the rest of the meat and then the rest of the tomatoes, parsley and garlic; seasoning each layer as needed.

Cover with the remaining potatoes, season again and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top, plus another drizzle of olive oil.

Once the coals in the Weber are ready, or your oven is warm, place your dish or “potjie”, lid on, inside and cook for about an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes, or until the meat and potatoes are tender.

Stein says you can also uncover the pot for the last while so the topping crisps up (if you’re doing it in the oven).

The Global Table verdict

This layers turned out delicious and we will definitely try this dish again. In future we might do only two layers of potato though, instead of three, and possibly pack the meat in a single layer instead of two – the possibilities are endless. Make sure you use juicy, very ripe tomatoes – we made the dish twice, once with skinned, regular (fresh) tomatoes and then with cherry tomatoes, and we almost preferred the one with the bigger tomatoes. We wouldn’t recommend using tinned tomatoes though.

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4 Responses to Italian Lamb

  1. Hello Louise!
    this is a wonderful dish that we eat very often in Puglia, being lamb very local here.
    You were totally right to add bay leaves. Being a Mediterranean region, we use lots of herbs and flavors that grow wild and by the sea. In this recipe we use lots of bay leaves and also rosemary.
    There are lots of versions of this recipe in Puglia. When I make this recipe, I also add lots of a grated breadcrumbs (with just a little bit of pecorino/sheep cheese). The breadcrumbs help make the crust (my Grandmother taught it to me).
    I also add 1 glass of white wine mixed with water and then I bake it.
    Ciao and hope to have you in Puglia one day!

    • globaltable says:

      Hi Cinzia
      At some stage we were contemplating adding some wine, but decided to follow the recipe. We will definitely add some wine the next time. Salvelio is Spanish and loves to use as many Mediterranean ingredients as possible. I am going to put you on our mailing list for the Global Table newsletter which I’ll be sending out soon. Also, we would love to go to Puglia some day.

  2. Hello Louise!
    first of all please tell Salvelio that I love Spanish cuisine. I recently went to Valencia….and I had such wonderful food!
    Thank you so much for putting my name on your mailing list. I would love to receive your newsletters. Please also subscribe to my newsletters if you like to receive our recipes and news from Puglia.
    All the best and hope to see you soon!

    • globaltable says:

      Thanks Cinzia, we have had a look at your blog and it looks amazing! We will definitely sign up for your newsletter – will get onto it in a moment. Our newsletter is only going out in a couple of weeks time once I get my mailing list sorted, but in the meantime do check the blog whenever you feel like it as a new recipe is posted every Saturday. We will certainly follow your blog also – happy cooking! Louise and Salvelio

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