Thieves’ Lamb • Kleftiko

Tonia Buxton’s Thieves’ Lamb • Kleftiko Recipe

This dish gets its name from the ‘Klephtes’, notorious bandits lurking in the countryside. Not having their own flocks,they would steal lamb or goats, cooking the meat in a sealed pit to avoid the smoke being seen.I cook kleftiko sealed tight in the traditional clay dome oven but a lidded casserole dish and conventional oven will do just the job. Alternatively you can make individual parcels of the meat with a layer of baking parchment and aluminium foil.

Serves 4-6
olive oil
1.5kg shoulder of lamb,bone
in, cut into fist-sized pieces
2 lemons cut into wedges
sea salt to taste
2 tsp of dried oregano or a
handful of fresh stems
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
3 bay leaves
4 large Cypriot potatoes, peeled,
cut into four lengthways
8 cherry tomatoes, optional
parchment paper and foil

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas 3. Lay the parchment paper in a lidded casserole dish with one half covering the base of the dish and the other hanging over the edge. Or make individual parcels that can fit two chunks of meat and two potatoes in each.
Rub the lamb all over with the lemon wedges and olive oil. Then put the lamb and lemon wedges into the dish. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper, oregano and cinnamon, add the bay leaves and the potato wedges…you can also add a few cherry tomatoes for colour.
Gently turn together all the ingredients, fold over the second half of the paper to cover the meat, pop the lid on and put into the oven. Roast for 2-3 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone. Rest the meat for at least ten minutes in a warm place then serve. Good with a fresh rocket or green salad and a dressing made from olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Photo: Vanessa Courtier

By Tonia Buxton