This dish looks to the flavours of southern Italy and uses bright green Sicilian olives that have a sweet, subtle flavour that is almost buttery. I tend to cook the olives with their pits in as I quite like the whole process of sucking on the stone and it suits the nature of the dish as eating the lamb requires a bit of hands-on work also. I am aware this kind of fiddly eating does not suit everyone so pit away if you must.
- 1.2 kg lamb neck, cut across the bone into 3 cm pieces
- 1 cup honey
- 2 medium brown onions, thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves roughly bashed
- 1 tin diced tomatoes
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 1 medium pinch of saffron
- 300 g sicilian olives
- 50 g butter
- 2 large splashes of red wine
- 100 g whole almonds, toasted and roughly crushed
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- olive oil
- salt and black pepper
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooking time 1–1½ hours
Place the lamb neck into a mixing bowl and coat with the honey and a good amount of seasoning. Set aside.
In a deep frypan over a medium heat, gently cook the onion and the garlic with a little olive oil and a little salt and pepper. After about 5 minutes, once they’ve started to soften, add the tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil.
Add in the saffron and olives, give everything a good stir and transfer this mix to a baking dish big enough to hold the sauce and the lamb neck you will soon be adding.
In a clean frypan, placed on a fairly high heat, add half the butter and as it starts to melt, half the lamb neck pieces. Turn down to a medium heat and brown off on both sides. You want the lamb bits to get a little dark and a bit caramely. Turn them out into your baking dish, put the pan back on the heat and throw in a splash of red wine. Give the pan a little twirl and then transfer this liquid also to the dish making sure to scrape off stray bits that are stuck to the pan. Repeat with the remaining lamb making sure you scrape all the honey in as well.
Once everything is happy together, cover with a sheet of baking paper and then with foil. Place in a pre-heated oven at 160°C and let it be for an hour.
Carefully remove the foil, have a little poke and see if the lamb is starting to easily come away from the bone, if it is, voila, it’s ready. If not put it back to cook. It’s essential that you cook it long enough so the meat starts falling away from the bone otherwise it will be tough and boring.
Once you are satisfied with the doneness, pull out the baking dish, stir through the parsley, scatter over the almonds and drizzle over a little oil. I’d be tempted to plonk the baking dish straight onto the table and get the guests to help themselves. It would be appropriate to serve alongside some crusty bread to soak up the juices. Soft polenta or rice would also be appropriate.
• I love using lamb neck as it braises so well and you get nice succulent bits of meat however you could also happily adapt this recipe for lamb shoulder as well.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson. Flared Dinner plates in colour slate and ash from Mud. Napkin in colour eggplant from White Home.