Lamb kleftiko is a classic Greek dish for good reason. It takes a little time, but it's hands off cooking and is easy to make. A delicious aromatic roast, it's a wonderful Mediterranean meal.
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A couple of years ago, when my younger son was only 6 weeks old, we went to Cyprus for a week, followed by a couple days in Athens. Some people thought we were crazy traveling that far with an infant and a three year old.
I can completely understand why, but on the whole it was actually a pretty nice trip. Leaving the cooler temperatures in Boston in November for pleasant warmth and sunshine helped. The tasty food helped even more.
We had most of our meals within the hotel which had a few restaurants with a good range of food, including the orange orzo I have since recreated, grilled chicken gyros and mezze including hummus and baba ghanoush.
But we also had a few meals in restaurants nearby. One meal was a fantastic range of mezze dishes as well as some mains, including kleftiko.
Unfortunately with all the new baby haze, I don't remember all that much about it other than it was tasty. As you can see, it's taken me a little while to get round to making it, but it was worth the wait.
Variations on lamb kleftiko
Despite the fact this is a pretty simple dish, there are still a number of variations:
- Some constant flavors - oregano, garlic, lemon and olive oil.
- Some optional additions - white wine, cinnamon, cheese.
- Optional vegetables - potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions.
- Different cuts of lamb - many use leg, some on the bone, some not, others use shoulder.
All have their pros and cons - I've gone for what I think is probably my preferred set of flavors, and I like having some vegetables in there too. This means you can make it a one pot meal, or just simply add a Greek salad as we did. On the cut of lamb, I am less decided. I went for boneless leg which is great for being leaner, and doesn't need to cook quite as long. However if I made it again, I think I'd probably opt for shoulder and cook longer to be super tender.
Lamb kleftiko adds a simple and delicious layer of flavor to slow cooked lamb that's a true taste of the Mediterranean. With the potatoes and tomatoes in there too, all you need is a simple salad on the side to make a full meal. It's a delicious option to serve a crowd or to enjoy as a Sunday roast.
Try these other tasty lamb mains:
- Braised lamb shanks
- Lamb kofte
- One pot braised lamb shoulder chops with vegetables
- And for leftovers, try a lamb pilaf or leftover lamb pasta sauce with eggplant.
- Plus get more Greek recipes in the archives.
Greek lamb kleftiko
To marinade lamb (ahead of time)
- 2 cloves garlic or 3 if small
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ lemon
- 2.2 lb boneless lamb leg or shoulder (see notes) 1kg
As ready to cook
- 1 lb potatoes 450g
- ½ red onion
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 dash salt
- 1 dash pepper
- ½ lemon
The day before
- Crush the garlic and mix with the salt, cinnamon, oregano, olive oil and lemon in a medium sized bowl. Add the piece of lamb and rub the marinade all over. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
On day of cooking
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C if using leg, and 320F/160C if using shoulder.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into large chunks of similar size in the potatoes are large. Peel and cut the onion into chunks (roughly 8 pieces). Put the potatoes, onion and tomatoes in the bottom of a large piece of parchment in an oven dish and drizzle over the olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon. Toss a little so they are covered.
- Place the piece of lamb on top of the vegetables and fold up the parchment to cover, as far as possible. If it doesn't fully close (it can be tricky), cover over the top with foil to seal. Place in the oven and cook for approx 2 ½ hours for the leg, and nearer 4 hours if using shoulder (see note below and comments above). In both cases, uncover for the last 20-30 minutes to allow the top and vegetables to brown a little.
- Let the meat rest for around 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. While it's resting, leave the potatoes and other vegetables in the oven for a couple more minutes then serve with the sliced lamb.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
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