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Braised Pag lamb shoulder with olive oil mashed potatoes and grilled leeks

Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook The Venetian Republic

The wonderful Croatian island of Pag, best known for its eponymous sheep’s milk cheese, also (and unsurprisingly) produces absolutely stunning lamb. This is a great winter’s dish, with the meat falling off the bone and packing a flavourful punch thanks to both the hint of acidity from the vinegar and the richness of the Plavac Mali, the superstar red wine of the Croatian islands.

Plavac Mali and vinegar-braised Pag lamb shoulder with olive oil mashed potatoes and grilled leeks

PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOKING TIME 4 hours 15 minutes

Lamb shoulder
1.2 kg (2 lb, 10 oz) whole shankless lamb shoulder
2 tablespoons olive oil
120 g (1 cup) whole French shallots
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bottle Plavac Mali red wine (Zinfandel, Primitivo or any medium/full-bodied red wine)
125 ml (½ cup) red wine vinegar
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil mashed potatoes
800 g (1 lb 12 oz) potatoes, whole and unpeeled
200 ml (generous ¾ cup) olive oil

Grilled baby leeks
20 baby leeks
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F). Season the lamb shoulder well with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep flameproof casserole dish over high heat for 2 minutes. Carefully add the lamb shoulder and brown all over. Remove the lamb and set aside.

Turn the heat to low, add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened.

Return the lamb to the dish and cover with the red wine and vinegar. Add the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Cover the casserole and cook in the oven for 3 ½ hours or until the lamb is very tender.

Remove the lamb and cover with foil in a warm place. Strain the liquid through a sieve and return the cooking juices to a saucepan over low heat. Simmer the liquid until it reduces to a sauce consistency, then keep warm.

Meanwhile, to make the olive oil mashed potatoes, place the potatoes into a large deep pan of cold water and boil until cooked through. While still hot, peel the potatoes and purée in a food mill or mouli. Beat in the oil and season with salt.

To make the grilled baby leeks, trim the roots of the leeks, brush with olive oil and season with salt. Place on a hot grill and cook on each side for 1 minute. Serve the lamb on a platter with the sauce, olive oil potato mash and baby leeks.

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