Lamb Baked in a Clay Jar

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

On the Tunisian island of Djerba, an amphora-shaped unglazed terracotta pot called a gargoulette is stuffed with fish or meat, saffron, herbs, olive oil, and vegetables, then left in the embers that warm the water at the bathhouse to cook slowly while the women bathe. The cook brings the pot home, her husband hacks off the top and the handles, then she pours the food into a ceramic bowl to serve. The flavor of food cooked in clay is special. Of course, the pot, being broken, is discarded, which makes sense in Djerba, where pots cost about twenty cents apiece. I substitute a three-quart Chinese clay pot and don't break it open; I use it again and again for its flavor-enhancing quality

A Romertopf brick oven can be substituted. It will provide the same fabulously moist quality—and you get to save your gargoulette for another day.


  • pounds bone-in shoulder of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 12 chunks
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped, plus 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 small green or red bell pepper
  • 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Flour, water, and oil ribbon for sealing the clay pot, optional
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Rinse the meat; drain and mix with the small onion, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and a good pinch of saffron. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 5 or 6 hours.
  2. Core the tomato, cut in half crosswise, and gently squeeze out the seeds. Slice the tomato. Core, seed, and thinly slice the bell pepper. Peel and halve the potatoes. Mix the vegetables with the olive oil and the marinated meat, pack into a 3-quart clay pot, and mix well. Cover with foil. Set the lid on top and seal with a ribbon of dough made with flour mixed with water and a drop of oil. Place in a cold oven, turn the temperature to 450°F, and bake for 1½ hours. Turn off the oven and leave to continue baking for 30 minutes.
  3. Pour the ingredients into a deep serving plate and correct the seasoning. Sprinkle the lemon juice, chopped onion, and parsley on top and serve.