Lamb Kleftiko

, from Issue #84. May, 2019
Photography by Kate Battersby.
Lamb Kleftiko

This kleftiko goes into the oven for five hours. That long cooking time and the fact it needs to be brined for 8-10 hours means you can start it the night before and get it into the oven a long time before guests arrive and get on with other things. I like to serve this with a simple fresh salad of cucumber, avocado, dill, lemon juice and olive oil. If you have some feta, grate it over the top as the salty cheese – like the lamb, thyme, lemon and olive oil – has a classic Greek flavour that works really well.

Serves: 6-8


1 bone-in lamb shoulder
table salt for brining
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large carrot, chopped into large dice
5 baby onions, chopped into large dice
1 small leek, chopped into large dice
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped into large dice   
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and ground pepper
1 garlic bulb, peeled
1 sprig rosemary
1 large sprig thyme
2 bay leaves
3 lemons


Make enough brine to cover the lamb shoulder, using 100 grams table salt for every litre of water. Add the lamb shoulder to the brine and leave for 8-10 hours.

Preheat the oven to 130°C.

Remove the lamb shoulder from the brine and pat dry. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan large enough to take the whole shoulder. Brown the lamb evenly all over and set aside.

Lay a large sheet of parchment paper over a medium-sized oven tray and place the chopped carrot, onions, leek and tomato in the centre. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over the vegetables and season with sea salt and ground pepper.

Make small slits in the lamb shoulder and insert a garlic clove and some rosemary into each pocket. Mix the thyme, bay leaves and the remaining rosemary and garlic through the vegetables.

Place the lamb shoulder on top of the vegetables. Slice one lemon and place on and around the lamb shoulder. Drizzle the juice of a second lemon and the remaining olive oil over the lamb shoulder, and sprinkle with a generous amount of ground pepper. Wrap the paper around the lamb and secure the parcel with kitchen string.

Cook the shoulder for 5 hours, or until the lamb is falling apart. It is worth checking after 3½ hours and keeping an eye on the meat. Pull out some of the bones; they should come away from the meat and out very easily. Once cooked, take the lamb out of the oven allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Baste the lamb with some of the juices from the tray and squeeze over the juice from the remaining lemon. Serve it up with the slow-cooked vegetables.