Lamb Kleftiko

Serves 8 to 10

This dish is a true example of cooking that is rewarded by time and patience. Kleftiko literally means “stolen” and originates from the times of the Greek revolution, when the Klephts stole lamb and cooked it very slowly, in deep holes in the ground over hot coals, sealed with soil so that it would be hidden. In more recent years, wood-fired ovens have been used, but the secret remains the same… slow and sealed, to intensify the delicious flavour or ‘til the meat falls from the bone.

Here’s what goes in

  • 1 leg of lamb, around 2kg (with bone in)
  • 6 potatoes, peeled and quartered (or equivalent baby potatoes)
  • 1 tin whole or diced tomatoes

For the marinade:

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely grated or crushed
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried origanum
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • A handful of coarse salt

  • Parchment paper (baking paper)
  • Kitchen string

How to do it

Combine the ingredients for the marinade and marinate the leg of lamb in this, preferably overnight, keeping it in a cool place. It’s a good idea to do this in a sealed plastic bag and turn it a few times during the process.

When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat your oven to 190°C and brown the meat on both sides using any oven dish (you can also do this on the stove top in a pan). Turn the oven down to 150°C and prepare the parchment paper by laying 4 sheets of it in a star formation, over a roasting dish or a cast iron pot. Arrange the potatoes in the middle of the parchment, drizzle a bit of olive oil over and season them with salt. Place the leg of lamb on top of the potatoes and then bring the sides of the parchment up, just enough to pour a little of the marinade into the parcel. Top this with the tomatoes and origanum to season. Twist the sheets at the top, like a sweet wrapper, and tie this together with kitchen string to seal the parcel.

Bake for 4 to 5 hours (either with the pot lid on or covered with foil) until the meat is very tender. When gently pulled with a fork, the meat should easily come away from the bone. Pull the meat apart removing the bone, transfer everything including the juices to a serving dish and serve with wedges of lemon.

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