Marcella’s Melt-in-the-mouth lamb with juniper

Recently some friends went for the weekend to Vienna. We recommended Plachutta, a restaurant where they could savour the very best boiled beef. On their return we asked them if they’d enjoyed it. They said they’d been to the restaurant, but they didn’t like the sound of ‘boiled beef’ so they’d had the Wiener schnitzel instead. Perhaps we should have given them the Austrian name which is Tafelspitz.

This is a recipe for boiled (well, simmered is perhaps a gentler term) lamb… and I have to admit to being a bit worried about the technique which seemed counter intuitive after decades of assiduous roasting. The method migrated into the Anglo-Saxon world from Italy thanks to the writer Marcella Hazan (The Classic Italian Cookbook). And proof of it’s success could be seen in the consistent requests for seconds…thirds even…as well as the recipe.

It not only melts in the mouth, but it is so tender fairly falls off the bone – resulting in less waste.

Don’t forget the tomato salsa – it’s absolutely essential to this dish. It also goes well with mixed, roasted cauliflower and aubergine.

If you have any lamb left over, make a shepherd’s pie; or, if you only have a small amount, fry it briskly with garlic, Isot pepper, allspice, lemon and salt, and sprinkle it over hummus.

This is what to do.

boiled lamb
Boiling lamb….highly successful, but, first time, a bit counter intuitive.

Marcella’s Melt-in-the-mouth lamb with juniper

Serves 6-8


  • 1 leg of lamb – about 2.5 kg/5 lb 8 oz
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 banana shallot
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with a tsp of smoked salt
  • 3 tsp juniper berries
  • 6 sprigs of rosemary
  • 360ml/1½ cups rosé vermouth
  • Urfa pepper flakes
  • tomato salsa – follow this link for this very simple recipe
  • ingredients for gravy – what you have to hand, mint sauce, redcurrant jelly, herbes de Provence, tomato paste….


  1. Find a large sturdy saucepan with a lid. Put all the ingredients except the tomato salsa and the ingredients for the eventual gravy into this pot. Put it on a low heat (Aga owners can use the simmering oven) and cook it, uncovered, for about four hours, turning the meat every 45 minutes or so.
  2. Cover the saucepan with the lid, but not completely so that steam can still escape. Turn up the heat a little. Cook for another hour and a half, turning the lamb once in the middle of this cooking time. A lot of the liquid will have evaporated, and the meat will be golden brown.
  3. Take the meat out and put it on a carving board, covered with foil, while you make the gravy. This is, in fact, pretty much done – the remaining liquid in the saucepan is the gravy, but you can add any of the usual suspects listed above. Strain the gravy before serving though because it’s likely to contain some small bits of bone.
  4. Carving this won’t present a problem – it literally just falls off the bone. Serve with the gravy and the tomato salsa.
how to make gravy
All the usual suspects to add to the gravy…
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