Baked Lamb with Green Olives: l’agnello al forno con le olive verdi
It’s embarrassing to write recipes like this, when title of the dish is also the recipe, but to those not familiar with the cooking of the South of Italy, it’s worth writing this down. I avoided dishes like this for the first few years that we were open as they are decidedly not Salento-specific: you’ll find something like this just about everywhere in the South. Then one day, I had this dish in Palermo, exactly the same as in the Salento, and it occurred to me that celebrating Christmas isn’t authentic only in Jerusalem. Nearly everyone in the south would claim this dish as his or her own, and the Salento is no different. In that spirit, here it is.
Tougher cuts of lamb or even mutton (after ‘lamb’ becomes ‘sheep’)
Olives (simple green ones are best, unflavoured. Bella di Cerignola would be ideal).
Some fresh herbs. Rosemary. Sage. Lavender. Bay. Or a blend.
Maybe salt, depending on the olives you use
Chuck the cut-up lamb, the olives (split with the bottom of a water glass, pits removed), a little olive oil, half the fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint, etc., but just one of them) and cover with white wine. Cover and bake for one hour. Remove the cover and allow the sauce to thicken. When almost dry, toss with parsley and the remaining fresh herbs. Serve with sandy potatoes and a nice acidic red (you COULD go white to mimic the white in the sauce, but lamb, especially mutton demands bolder flavours. Plate tall.