My late Aunt Pierina Crolla came over to live in Scotland as a new bride, a young Italian woman who had spent the first quarter of her life with her family in the mountain village of Picinisco where many of our families came from.

The village is one of the highest in the Apennine mountain range between Rome and Naples.

Her family experience of cooking was in an open wood fire with only seasonal ingredients – vegetables and fruit her family grew in her small holding on the side of the hill and wild herbs she gathered from the mountainside.

She never read a cookery book or copied an Elizabeth David recipe. Her cooking was from nature, using natural ingredients and seasonings and heat from the fire.

She was a magician. The flavour of her cooking was spectacular. With her hands massaging the ingredients together, knowing how to season, she put trays into her oven and brought out sublime food.

Do try to get some new season spring lamb for this dish, Scottish of course!

Spezzatino Di Agnello (Baked herb spring lamb)


1.5 kilo leg of spring lamb or lamb shoulder

2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, thyme, and marjoram

2 bay leaves

2-3 cloves garlic, unpeeled and squashed.

Sea salt and black pepper

3-4 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

2 red onions, cut into eighths

1 bulb fennel, cut into pieces

3 Maris Piper potatoes, cut into cubes the same size as the lamb

Small glass dry white wine


Ask the butcher to cut the lamb into 4cm-5cm pieces, still on

the bone.

Put the lamb in a large bowl and add the herbs, crushed garlic and seasoning.

Add the extra virgin olive oil and, with clean hands, toss everything together, making sure the lamb is well coated.

Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours, overnight if possible.

Remove from the fridge an hour before cooking.

Pre-heat oven 220˚C/ Gas 7

Par-boil the potatoes in salted water to

start the cooking process. Drain.

Choose a heavy baking tray.

Spread the lamb and herbs out evenly.

Add the cut pieces

of onion, fennel and potatoes and toss everything together again, coating the vegetables with the oil.

Splash over the dry white wine.

Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes until the lamb is nicely browned outside, still pink

in the middle and the onions are gooey and melted, the potatoes are crispy and singed.

The wine evaporates in the oven and the juices and oil mix to make a sticky coating for the food.

Once the lamb is roasted you can keep it covered in a cool oven for up to an hour or so.