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Kleftiko is a true classic of greek cuisine and perfect for a late spring Sunday lunch.

Named after the Klephts, supposed greek insurgents/bandits who roamed the countryside during Ottoman rule, the dish was traditionally cooked in a pit oven. It was said that the Klephts would steal lambs for food and cook them in a sealed pit to avoid the smoke giving away their position.

Like all rustic recipes the ingredients vary depending on what is in season and to hand. Core ingredients should include lamb, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and potato. Make sure you use waxy potatoes so they hold their shape, otherwise they will turn to mush in the bottom.

In terms of the lamb, both shoulder and leg work well, for this recipe we have gone for shoulder.

Finally be careful with the moisture content. If using cherry tomatoes, peppers etc. you may want to reduce the amount of liquid added. Also if you are going for a 5hr+ roast hold the tomatoes and peppers back until later in the cook.


Serves 6+

  • 2.4kg shoulder of lamb
  • Olive oil
  • 1x tsp oregano
  • 1x tsp cinnamon
  • 1x tsp chilli flakes
  • 1x tsp sea salt
  • 1x tsp black pepper
  • 1x head of garlic, peeled & crushed
  • 2x lemons
  • 1kg waxy potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2x red onions, quartered
  • 1-2x red peppers (optional), sliced
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 2x bay leaf
  • 180ml of water, white wine or stock


  1. Make a number of small incisions all over the lamb.
  2. Add the oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper, chilli, half the garlic and a good glug of olive oil to a pestle and mortar and grind to form a paste.
  3. Massage the paste into the lamb and place inside a large freezer bag, add a further glug of olive oil and the juice of one lemon, zip up and place in the fridge over night.
  4. Remove the lamb from the fridge an hour before cooking to come up to room temperature.
  5. Arrange two large sheets of foil in a cross shape, add a further cross of baking paper on top, they need to fold over the top of the lamb to form a parcel, so use the lamb as a guide to get the size right. You can double up the foil to ensure you get a secure parcel.
  6. Slice the potatoes into wedges and arrange on the baking paper, covering an area slightly larger than the cut of lamb. Add the onions and the rest of the garlic. Place the lamb on top and add a few more slices of potato and garlic around the edge.
  7. Place in a baking tray, add the liquid, another squeeze of lemon juice and bay leaves and fold over the parchment and foil to form a parcel. Try to keep a gap between the top wrapping and the lamb.
  8. Pop in the oven at 150°C for 4-5hrs.
  9. If using tomatoes and peppers, open then parcel an hour before it is ready and scatter the tomatoes and peppers around the lamb and return to the oven.
  10. Open the parcel, remove the lamb and turn the oven up to 220°C and return the vegetables, open, to the oven to crisp up.
  11. Serve with a greek salad and some freshly made tzatziki or some fresh green vegetables.
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