Kleftiko (kind of)
For fear of inciting the worst Greek backlash since Paris decided to elope back to Troy with Helen I should point out that this recipe is not Kleftiko in the classic sense.
It’s more like a variation of the French classic Shoulder of Lamb cooked over Boulangere Potatoes, but flavoured with the Hellenic holy trinity of Oregano, Garlic and Lemon.
I have had a cold for what seems like weeks, it just won’t shift and to be completely honest I’m not in the mood for tackling anything technically demanding in the kitchen at the moment. As such it seemed a great opportunity to cook this dish as it requires minimal work, basically a one pot wonder that looks after itself with a couple of simple sides. One thing you do need is time, so this is normally a Sunday dish for us.
Lamb is far and away the most consumed meat in our household. It’s so versatile and features in many of our favourite dishes, especially from the Greek culinary canon – Moussaka, Lagoto, Kleftiko, Pastitsio, Giouvetsi – my favourite has to be Lamb Souvlaki however. The smell of lamb that has been marinated in lemon juice, garlic and oregano grilling over coals is irresistible and instantly transports me to balmy summer evenings spent in the Aegean.
Sadly it’s early March in London, it’s freezing and I have a cold. Firing up the BBQ is not an option, so a slow cooked shoulder of lamb it is.
As a bonus a 2kg shoulder like this will feed us long into the week, we’ll easily get 3 or 4 meals out of it with a little reworking. Tomorrow we’ll just shred and quickly fry some of the lamb with halloumi and stuff it in pittas with the remaining Tzatziki and grilled peppers. Later on in the week we might have a quick cheats version of Navarin D’Agneau or lamb stewed with flageolet beans and loads of garlic. If I’m feeling particularity parsimonious I’ll make a broth out of the bones with the final shreds of the lamb, some root veg and pearl barley.
Marinating time: 12-24 hours
Prep time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 4.5 hours
Serves: 6 portions
Shoulder of Lamb:
2kg Shoulder of lamb
1kg Large Charlotte potatoes (or other waxy variety)
2 ½ x Lemons
8 x Anchovy fillets preserved in oil
8 x Sprigs of rosemary
15g Fresh oregano
1 Tbsp Dried oregano
500ml Chicken stock
1 Small glass of dry white wine
1 x Bulb of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
2 x large onions
4 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
350g Greek yoghurt
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
3 Cloves of Garlic
3 Tsp dried mint
3 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Ground black pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
For the Lamb and Potatoes:
Make your marinade by adding the peeled cloves of half a bulb of garlic to a pestle and mortar and bash to a paste. Finely zest 1 lemon and add to the garlic along with all of the dried oregano and the leaves of half the fresh oregano, mash into the garlic paste. Add the juice of the zested lemon and 2 Tbsp of Olive oil, stir well and set aside.
Halve the remaining garlic cloves. Take a small, sharp knife and make 8 or so deep incisions into the flesh of the lamb at regular intervals, twist the knife in each incision to enlarge the hole slightly. Into each incision stuff a piece of garlic, an anchovy fillet, sprig of rosemary and a couple of the remaining oregano leaves.
Place the lamb in a suitable receptacle and coat it well in half of the marinade. Refrigerate the lamb and the remaining half of the marinade over night.
Remove the lamb from the fridge and allow to come to room temp for an hour. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees.
Peel and finely slice your potatoes, I used a mandolin which helps speed up the process and standardise the size, but if a knife is all you have, use that. Place the potato slices into a large bowl of cold water. Peel, halve and finely slice the onions.
Get an ovenproof dish deep enough to contain the potatoes and onions, but also wide enough to accommodate the whole lamb shoulder balanced on top. I used a 30 cm Spanish terracotta cazuela like this which was just about perfect.
Add 1/3 of the onion slices to your dish in an even layer, spoon over a third of the remaining marinade you used on the lamb followed by a 1/3 of your potatoes, , season with salt and pepper, repeat the process, ending with a top layer of potato, season this well.
Add the wine and stock to the dish, the level of the liquid should come to just below the top layer of potato.
Squeeze 1/2 a lemon over the lamb and season well all over, place the lamb directly on top of the potatoes and place the whole dish in the oven.
After 30 mins remove the dish from the oven, and reduce the heat to 140 degrees. Check the liquid levels topping up with a little water if it looks dry. Tent the dish in foil, trying to leave a good amount of space around the lamb for the steam to circulate and return to the oven for 3.5 hours. Check the dish from time to time and if it is beginning to dry out add a little water.
After 3.5 hours remove the foil (don’t discard) and leave the lamb to caramelise a little for the final 30 mins.
After the final 30 mins uncovered, remove the lamb from the dish and wrap in the foil.
Turn your grill on. Halve the remaining lemon and add to the top of the potatoes, cut side up and place under the grill to char the lemon halves and crisp the top layer of potatoes a little. Keep a careful eye on both lemons and potatoes, they can turn from golden to charcoal in the blink of an eye! Once coloured to your liking remove from the grill and keep warm.
For the Tzatziki:
Try to make you Tzatziki when the lamb goes into the oven to give the flavours time to mingle.
Cut your half cucumber vertically into quarters. Run the blade of your knife down each quarter to remove the watery centre, leaving only the firm flesh. Finely dice the cucumber.
Place the cucumber in a sieve over a bowl and sprinkle with 2 Tsp of fine salt, leave for 30 mins to allow some of the water content to leach out. After 30 mins rinse the cucumber of the salt and dry on kitchen paper. Place in a bowl along with the yoghurt, lemon juice, 1 Tbsp of the oil, Tsp of Salt, Tsp of Pepper and the dried mint. Stir well.
I like to boil the garlic for a minute or two in a saucepan of water before crushing into the yoghurt as it reduces the somewhat acrid note of raw garlic, but feel free to skip this step. Once the garlic has been added and mixed well refrigerate the Tzatziki. When ready to serve stir well. I like to drizzle over the remaining oil and dust the surface with a pinch of smoked paprika, but this is cosmetic more than anything else.
For the Kale:
When you are ready to eat simply steam the kale until tender, anywhere from 5-10 mins depending on the maturity of the kale. Place the steamed kale in a bowl and season with a little salt and pepper and dress with extra virgin olive oil.
Simply fill thirds of a bowl with the kale, potatoes and lamb which should yield from the bones with ease. Add a dollop of the Tzatziki, squeeze over a spritz of the charred lemons and dig in.