PULL-APART GREEK LAMB ROAST (Kleftiko-Style)


The method of preparing and cooking lamb for Easter depends greatly on the family and what region of Greece they are from. One thing all regions have in common is the use of salt (and plenty of it), herbs, fresh lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without lamb being prepared and cooked.

Growing up we always had lamb on the spit which took a total of 8-10 hours to prepare and cook (depending on the lamb size). In fact this is by far my favourite way to eat lamb but let’s face it, it’s not convenient and most importantly, how many people own an electronic spit roaster? In the olden days, family members would take turns mechanically (by hand) rotating the lamb and this was an important ritual part of the Easter Feast. In fact, the men were responsible of taking care of the lamb while the women made the rest of the preparations.

Now I make my Lamb Roast the same whether it be for Easter or for a weeknight meal as it’s too good to change and the way I came about cooking lamb this way was eating KLEFTIKO at a Greek club one night. Kleftiko (translates into the word ‘stolen’) which is sealing lamb pieces in baking paper (usually lamb forequarter pieces) along with vegetables, wine and garlic and baking these little ‘parcels’ until the lamb is so tender it falls off the bone. The word Kleftiko was supposedly used because the lamb was stolen from farms or the wealthy and cooked in a pit to avoid detection.

In my mind, I thought, why can’t I cook a whole leg of lamb or a shoulder of lamb this way? When I did, it turned out so good I’ve never cooked it any other way since. In fact I cook all my roasts this way - “Kleftiko Style” - if I may call it that LOL. I guarantee you, you will be so excited about the way this turns out. I havn’t had a bad bake since I’ve baked this way.

Now for those who like a ‘leaner’ piece of lamb and want to use leg of lamb, that is fine but you need to add 45 minutes of cooking time on top of the 3 ½ hours recommended. The reason Greeks do not usually cook the leg of lamb is because we like a tender cut and frankly, fat makes the meat tender. I personally try to remove prior to baking as much fat off the shoulder as possible and that turns out perfect.

Serves 4-6

Lamb:

2.2kg shoulder of lamb

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 rosemary springs, leaves removed

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp marjoram

½ tsp black pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

Potatoes:

1kg potatoes, skin left on, washed and cut into wedges

2 tbs olive oil

½ tsp dried oregano

1 rosemary spring, leaves removed

sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan forced. Arrange a baking tray large enough to fit the lamb.

  2. Lay a long piece of foil and a long piece of baking paper on the bench. One width ways and the other lengthways to form a cross. You will be placing the lamb in the centre and wrapping it with the baking paper and foil.

  3. In a bowl combine the garlic, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper and form a ‘paste’. Use this to rub and massage all over the lamb. Transfer to the baking paper and fold the baking paper and foil over to completely enclose the lamb. Place into the baking tray and roast for 3 ½ hours.

4. In the meantime prepare the side dishes. This may include the potatoes, a Greek salad, boiled peas, tzatziki dip, olives and feta (recipes for these are also on the blog). The potatoes need to be cooked 45 minutes prior to the lamb being ready.

5. To cook the potatoes, add them to a baking tray lined with baking paper and season with the oregano, rosemary and sea salt. Then drizzle olive oil all over. Combine well. Place into oven on the rack above the roast and set timer for 45 minutes.

6. Once the lamb is cooked, carefully open the foil and baking paper and place back into the oven for 10 minutes to golden.

7. Squeeze fresh lemon juice all over lamb and potatoes. Place everything onto table and shred lamb using two forks. Serve immediately.

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