Recipe: Kleftiko

By Michael Langden, September 2, 2010
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Last year I went on holiday to a Greek island. I love fresh fish, simply grilled over charcoal, and salads, so the food there was a delight. However it was a shame that there were no kosher restaurants on the harbour-side because the smell of the lamb cooking in the many side-street tavernas was truly mouth-watering.

While the most popular dish with the tourists seemed to be the souvlakia - skewered and barbecued lamb served with salad and rice - the dish that appealed to me the most was kleftiko; pieces of lamb slow baked with lemon until they are practically falling off the bone.

On my return I did a little research on the internet and discovered the dish was easy to replicate. The Greek word Kleftiko is literally translated as "stolen meat". Legend has it that poachers would steal goats and lambs from the hillside and cook them sealed in an underground pit.

The good news is that it works just as well in a standard oven and the only compromise you need to make for kashrut purposes is to omit the feta cheese from the Greek salad served to accompany the meat. Traditionally, the lamb is baked from raw but I find that browning the lamb pieces first gives them a nicer colour and greater depth of flavour.

Serves four

Ingredients

● Four pieces of lamb shoulder on the bone - each about the size of a large fist
● Four medium potatoes cut
into quarters
● One lemon, cut into eight pieces
● One large sprig of fresh oregano or 1 tsp of dried oregano
● 1 tsp cinnamon
● Olive oil
● Salt and pepper
● Honey (optional)
● Finely chopped parsley

Method

● Preheat the oven to gas 2/150° C.
● Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan and brown the lamb pieces on all sides on a medium/high heat. Do not overcrowd the pan or the lamb will not caramelise.
● When browned, place the lamb pieces into a heavy casserole dish along with the potatoes, lemon, herbs and spices, and season well.
● Add a good glug of olive oil and mix with your hands until everything is coated.
● Seal the top of the casserole with a large piece of aluminium foil (preferably doubled up) and then place the lid firmly on top.
● Bake in the oven and for three- to three-and-half hours until both the lamb and potatoes are meltingly tender.
● If the cooking juices taste bitter, add a tsp of honey and mix well
● Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve with a simple salad.

    Last updated: 11:29am, September 2 2010