More Great Recipes: Greek | Mediterranean

Lamb Kleftiko

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Serves 4 | Prep Time 15 | Cook Time 180

Why I Love This Recipe


Roughly five hundred years ago, in Greece a large number of poor farmers were forced to take refuge in the mountains, fleeing from the authorities because they refused to bow to a foreign occupation or to the whims of wealthy landowners. They couldn’t pay their taxes or their debts and in order to survive, they would steal a goat or else rely on the hospitality of their fellow countrymen, who gave them food. These hunted men, whose numbers were huge at times, were known as “kleftes” or thieves, by the authorities.

In order to cook their food without being detected by the patrols, they had to hide the smoke from their cooking fire and the aroma of roasting meat. Nor did their fugitive existence allow them to remain in the same place for the six or seven hours necessary to oversee the cooking of their meal. So they used to dig a hollow in the ground, light a fire in the bottom of it and then cover the embers with branches and soil. Then they placed the lamb or goat’s meat on top and covered it with more branches and soil. They slowly roasted the meat in this earth-oven for several hours with chunks of hard, spicy cheese and the roasted meat gradually took on the aroma of its covering of bay leaves and carob leaves, as well as the flavours of oregano and thyme, lemon and wild garlic. Hours later they returned, uncovered the roast meat and enjoyed their “thieves’ dinner” or “kleftiko”.

Today you can enjoy Kleftico in your oven...

Ingredients You'll Need

10 Lamb Shanks
200 ml Olive oil
4 Bay leaf
Black pepper corns
200 ml Water


Mix the ingredients together.

Wrap in greasing paper and then in aluminium foil.

Put the packages in baking dish

Add the water

Bake in high oven for about 3 hours

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