Lamb Kleftiko – so delicious!

7 Jun

DSCI0292I had no idea there were so many recipes for this wonderful Greek lamb dish.  I remember first eating Lamb Kleftiko in Hersonissos old village, in the square, on a balmy summer night.  Absolute heaven.  I have loved this dish ever since but this is the first time I have made it.

There are so many ways of preparing this dish. Traditionally it is baked in the oven, wrapped in paper.  Apparently, kleftiko means stolen meat and, legend has it, that bandits would steal lambs while found grazing on the hillside then cook them for hours buried deep in sealed pits so that the smoke would not attract attention.  Many Greeks continue this legend, not by stealing lambs of course, but by sealing the lamb in a parcel and cooking it low and slow in the oven until the meat is so tender it literally falls off the bones and the potatoes cooked with it have soaked up all the meaty juices, flavoured with garlic, lemon and herbs.  Delicious!  Some cooks replace the parcel with a dish and seal the top of the dish with a dough before cooking in the oven. Many restaurants, however, now cook and serve Lamb Kleftiko in individual casserole dishes.  Whichever way it is cooked the outcome is similar as it is the long, slow cooking that is key.

This recipe is unbelievably simple. Just mix all the ingredients together then leave the oven to do all the work for a couple of hours.  I chose the recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes book, adapted slightly.  He based his recipe on one from Andy Harris’s book, Modern Greece, who is a friend of his and has lived in Greece for eleven years before moving to Australia.

Here is the recipe, I hope you enjoy it.

Lamb k                                                                       Serves 3 – 4

  • 1/2 leg of lamb weighing about 1 kg/2 lbs, bone left in
  • 1 kg Desiree potatoes, or any waxy main crop, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1/2 head of garlic, left in one piece, unpeeled but outer papery skin removed
  • 1 heaped tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano or marjoram
  • olive oil
  • juice if 1 lemon
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
  2. Put the meat, potatoes and garlic in a lidded casserole dish or skillet. Sprinkle over the dried herbs then add the fresh oregano, lemon juice, about 50 ml of water and a few good glugs of olive oil.  Season well then mix together well with your hands.
  3. Place a sheet of foil over the casserole and then cover with the lid so it is sealed well and bake for 2 – 3 hours until the meat is falling off the bone. Check half way through and add a little more water if necessary.
  4. Serve the lamb and potatoes with a salad of cucumber, tomatoes and sliced red onion, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil

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