Dean Wilkinson’s Match of the Month

Dean is a chef based in Sydney, Australia. His chef roles in restaurants such as The Bathers Pavilion, Glass, Ripples at Chowder Bay, Four Villages and other restaurants has given him experience in selecting the right wines to suit a range of cuisines from delicate seafood to powerful red meat dishes. “Selecting the right wine compliments the efforts put into a dish by the chefs in the kitchen” says Dean. ” Wine should enhance the dining experience, highlighting the individual or combination of flavours that have been selected to create a unique taste sensation”.

November’s Match of the month
It never ceases to amaze me the strong nostalgia that is associated with the memory of a satisfyingly good meal. One can remember exactly what they ate, where they ate it, whom they were with, why they were there & what delightful beverages were on hand to wash it all down.

A man very close to my heart recently took one of those nostalgic journeys midway through a conversation about all things food & wine. Many moons ago (I won’t discuss how many), this New Zealand national crossed the ditch and fell into life as a Jackeroo, living and working in the Australian outback, spending long hot, dry and dusty days in the saddle tending to the land, mending fences and the keeper of thousands of livestock. You can just imagine the hunger and thirst a day of hard yakka in the harsh Australian sun could conger, and the camp cook who fed the jackaroos and jillaroos definitely had his work cut out for him.

One perk with this line of work, was that fresh meat was a very ready resource, with many different cuts of the beast at the cooks disposal. A particular favourite memory for this Jackeroo is a shoulder of lamb that would be submerged in brine and cooked slowly for many hours over a campfire until the flesh could no longer contain itself and fell willingly from the bone. “The only thing missing though was a good drop of wine to wash it down…”

So many years on, after a long global career in the IT sector, this ex Jackeroo along with his wife felt the call of the land once more and set about fulfilling a shared dream of producing top quality wine. That dream is today, very much a reality and Misha’s Vineyard is in the throws of releasing their first full vintage of wines with the flagship of the portfolio their “The High Note“ Pinot Noir.
This wine with its aromas of blackberry and red fruits would have been a heavenly match with that shoulder of lamb so here is my recipe and guidance for braised shoulder of lamb to be enjoyed with a bottle or two of Misha’s Vineyard ”The Hight Note“ Pinot Noir.
With french beans, sautéed mushrooms, crushed rosemary potatoes

Feeds 4-5 hungry Jackaroos/Jillaroos

1 Shoulder of Lamb (approx 2 kilo’s with bone remove)
4 litres Veal Stock (and 500ml of *demi-glaze)
500 ml Red Wine (A cheap merlot or cabernet is fine. Leave the good stuff for drinking)
200 grams Tomato Paste
4 Eschalots (or small brown onions left whole)
1 Stick of Celery
1 Carrot (peeled and left whole)
200 grams Portabello Mushrooms
400 grams Green Beans
8 New Potatoes (small to medium)
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Bay Leaves
1 bunch Rosemary
½ bunch Thyme
½ tsp White Peppercorns
½ tsp Sea Salt
100ml Olive Oil

Before you start it is important to know that the secret to a good braise is the love and flavour you put into the braising liquor. The shoulder will be a sponge for all the goodness you put in. Also take note that this is a long process that could take up to 4 hours depending on the size of the shoulder so if its for a dinner party give yourself plenty of time or do it the day before.


To start, pour yourself a glass of pinot and throw on an apron. It has been said “that you should always cook with wine, and occasionally add it to food…”

If cooking in a roasting pan, preheat oven to 150 degrees C.

Place a roasting pan or large heavy based pot on a low heat on the top of the stove. It should be able to hold enough love juice (braising liquor) to fully submerge the shoulder.
Pour In half the olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Season the fat of the shoulder with a good wack of sea salt and place skin side down in the base of the pan/pot. Let this cook for 10 mins or so to render (melt) down the fat. Take care to check that the temperature is low and the skin browns, but does not burn. Once the skin is bordering on the crispy side remove the shoulder and set aside.

Add the rest of the olive oil, onions, carrot, celery & garlic on a low heat and slowly brown the vegetables. Once they have a nice tan on them crank up the heat a little to a medium heat, add the tomato paste and continue to stir. Tomato paste has a high sugar content so it will want to stick and burn. Don’t let it win!!

After 3-5 minutes pour in the wine and keep stirring for a further 3-5 minutes so the wine and the tomato paste become good friends. Let simmer for 5 minutes or so to let the alcohol burn off then add the stock (and demi-glaze* if you have it), the bay leaf, white peppercorns & mushrooms.

Once the braising liquor has come to the boil put in the shoulder skin side up. If you need more liquid, flick the kettle on and top up the pot with hot water.

If you are going to cook it on top of the stove adjust the heat so the braising liquor is bubbling slightly. Like it wants to start to boil but you wont allow it. Cover with a lid or aluminium foil and check every half hour.
If you are cooking it in the oven 150 degrees should be about right but all ovens are different so check after the first 15mins and adjust if necessary.

At about the 3hour mark throw in half the rosemary & the thyme and after another half hour, check the meat. As the Jackeroo tells me, “if you can carve it with a fork it’s done”.

Place the potatoes (skin on) in salted cold water and bring to the boil, then turn temperature down to medium. When the potatoes are just cooked through, remove from water. Lightly crush the potatoes with a fork and toss with chopped rosemary and a little salt & pepper.

Strain 1 litre of the braising liquor into a small pot and reduce by 1/5 to make a sauce.
Remove the shoulder very carefully, place on a chopping board and carve into 4-5 pieces.
In a hot pan, drizzle a good amount of olive oil, toss in the mushrooms and cook for 3-5 mins. Add crushed potatoes and sauté for another 3 mins.
Blanch greens beans in hot salted water.

Place a hefty spoon of mushroom & potato on the plate, slide a chunk of the shoulder on the top, let the green beans cuddle up on the side and drizzle with sauce.

Kia mākona!!

*Demi-glaze is a greatly reduced stock that is quite rich. Some butchers carry it so ask around. It really lifts your braising liquor but it’s not mandatory.