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Preparation time : 20 minutes
Cooking time: 3 to 4 hours or until meat falls off the bone.
Servings bone-in: About 300 to 400 gm to a serving i.e. 2 kg’s will feed 5 to 7 people.
Servings deboned: About 200 to 300 gm to a serving i.e. 2 kg’s will feed 7 to 10 people.
Lamb Kleftiko, roughly translated, means stolen meat or stolen lamb. It depends which of your Greek friends you ask. The legends say that a thief would sneak onto a remote Greek hillside and steal a lamb. He would cook the meat for many hours over coals in a hole sealed with mud to prevent steam escaping and alerting the shepherds.
Whatever the legends though, let me say that this is down and dirty soul food with a large comfort food factor thrown in. Only the best of friends ever get this as a special treat. Get it right and you’ll get accolades. Get it wrong and it will still taste great. Time is the secret ingredient; Rosemary is the essential ingredient.
One of the best modern methods is to put your lamb chunks and other ingredients into an oven double baster lined with enough tinfoil to wrap the ingredients in a pouch. Place another tinfoil sheet on top overlapping the lip of the bottom section and put the top cover in place, creating a good seal between top and bottom. (See illustration below)
(I have cooked bone-in kleftiko for 6 farmers who flattened half a lamb. (8 kg of meat) So overcater)
- See the original recipe plus other classic herb recipes here.
- either 1 boned shoulder of lamb (about 2 kg) or a bone-in lamb hindquarter cut into neat fist sized chunks by your butcher, or a bone-in lamb forequarter cut into neat fist sized chunks by your butcher. see above for weight needed.
- 150 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, cut into slivers
- 4 tbsp roughly chopped rosemary
- juice of 1 large lemon
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 150 °C (325 °F).
- Heat 50 ml of the oil in a large, heavy frying pan over a medium heat.
- Add the lamb and brown on all sides.
- Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.
- Use a wooden skewer or similar to make holes in the lamb. Insert the garlic slivers into the holes. 
- Place meat inside tinfoil, add the herbs, lemon juice and the remaining olive oil and season.
- Wrap tightly in the tinfoil. Place overlapping foil over this and fit lid.
- Place in oven and cook for 4 to 6 hours.
- Remove from the oven shortly before serving.
- Open foil and pierce bottom of foil cover to start draining.
- Serve the chunky portions whole and spoon remaining juice over portions – they should almost fall apart at this stage.
- Serve with your veggies of choice.
- Please let me know how you enjoyed this recipe.