This Greek lamb shoulder recipe is in the tradition of Kleftiko – a slow-roasted lamb dish invented by the Klepht freedom fighters in Ottoman-controlled Greece. The Klepht were bandits so this dish was typically made using stolen lamb and cooked in a fire pit in the woods. You can get your lamb here.
Kleftiko is heavy on the lemon, herbs and garlic – which serve as the marinade prior to cooking, and then caramelise beautifully over the duration of the slow cook. The end result is a wonderfully aromatic piece of meat that falls off the bone – perfect for sharing.
Feeds 4-6. Prep time 20mins (+2hrs with long marinate). Cooking time 5.5hrs.
1 x Bone-in shoulder of lamb
1 x bulb of garlic
2 x sprig Fresh rosemary
1 x small handful of Fresh oregano
2 x Small onions
3 x bay leaves
2 x plump lemons
1kg chopped desiree potatoes
Salt and Pepper
Salt and Pepper
Take your garlic bulb and separate the cloves, removing the skin and crush or finely chop. Finely chop your oregano and 1 sprigs worth of rosemary and combine in a bowl with your garlic and some salt and pepper. Add a dash of olive oil and mix. It should form a loose paste.
Lay your lamb shoulder ribs down on a chopping board and make a series of incisions throughout the flesh – deep enough to fit a finger into. Place in a large dish lined with enough foil to wrap the shoulder in, and proceed to massage the herb and garlic paste into the meat – make sure you cover every inch and push as much as possible into the incisions. Now squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shoulder.
Cover and place in your fridge for a few hours to marinate. (Of course, this step isn’t essential if you’re strapped for time – but it does allow the acids from the garlic herbs and lemon juice to work their way into the meat.)
Preheat your oven to 150C. Remove the lamb from your fridge and uncover, place your chopped potatoes and onions around and under the lamb in the bed of foil. Sprinkle the rest of the rosemary over the veggies and add the bay leaves. Drizzle a tad more olive oil around the veggies and season with salt and pepper. Now it’s time to seal everything up. You want to make sure the foil is sealed securely without being quite snug with the contents of the dish – this allows for proper air-flow and gives the juices ample opportunity to bubble away without being trapped – you’ll get a more even cook with a broader distribution of flavours.
Put your dish into the preheated oven and cook for 5 hours (the longer the better). When the time comes, pull out the dish and peel away the foil from the top. Now is a great opportunity to make gravy. Drain out the majority of the juices (and separate excess oils) and add to a pan with some sifted plain flour, the juice of another lemon and a dash of white wine. Simmer gently.
Turn your oven up to circa 200C and fan-force it – return the lamb and vegies, uncovered to cook for a further 20mins – this will evaporate any excess moisture and should crisp up all the edges, making them nice and golden.
When it’s done, let it rest. Serve with a Greek Salad and crumble some Greek or Bulgarian feta over the veggies.