"In Greek, kleftiko means -stolen meat-," says Theodore Kyriakou, owner of London restaurant, The Real Greek. "According to legend, this dish would be made with a lamb stolen from a flock as it grazed on a hillside. The thief would cook the meat over many hours in a hole in the ground, sealed with mud so that no steam could escape to give him away." Nowadays, the lamb is sealed inside a paper package, which keeps the meat moist and traps its fragrant juices. If this recipe whets your appetite for a little Hellenic cooking, see Theodore-s new book, The Real Greek at Home (Mitchell Beazley; £20).
- 1 boned shoulder of lamb (about 1.5kg)
- 150ml extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, cut into slivers
- 3 tbsp roughly chopped oregano or rosemary
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to its highest setting.
- Heat 50ml 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 several layers of kitchen paper.
- Cut 3 pieces of baking parchment, each about 1 metre long. Place one on top of the other, fold all in half widthways and crease down the centre, then open up. Lay the paper in a roasting tray, with one half on the base of the tray and the other half hanging over the edge.
- Place the lamb on to the paper. Poke holes in the lamb with the tip of a sharp knife and push in the garlic slivers, sprinkle the herbs, the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil over it and season. Bring the second half of the paper over the meat and fold over the edges to seal the lamb inside.
- Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, gas mark 4 and roast for a further 40 minutes per kilo of meat. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for 30 minutes. Cut the parcel open, carve the lamb and serve with its juices, and roast potatoes.
- Preparation time: 15 minutes
- Cooking time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, plus resting
- Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes, plus resting
Serves: 4 - 6
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This recipe was first published in August 2004.