The name Kleftiko comes from the fact that the meat is baked in a sealed oven and hence retains its cooking juices. (A modern adaption of this dish is to bake the lamb in baking paper or foil, to obtain a similar effect.)
The dish got its name from the word “kleftis”, which means “robber”, due to the fact that mountain brigands would cook stolen meat in hidden, underground ovens.
- 3-4 kg lamb, cut into large pieces (see note)
- 1 kg potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 2 tsp dried oregano (Greek rigani is best) (see note)
- 8 fresh bay leaves
- ½ cup oil
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Place lamb and potatoes into two baking trays. Mix together salt, pepper and oregano in a small bowl, sprinkle over lamb and potatoes and toss well, rubbing mixture into the meat. Add bay leaves. Pour in a little water and drizzle the oil over. Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 150°-160° for two hours.
If you’re lucky enough to have a wood-fired oven or fourno, bake it for 3-4 hours… but then again, if you had one, you probably know exactly what to do!
The lamb in this recipe can be any cut but Soteroulla recommends square cut shoulder or neck as these make for a more tender kleftiko
Greek rigani is available at Greek and Continental delis and grocery stores