Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Lamb kleftiko, or slow roasted lamb, is a Greek dish that is packed full of flavours.
The lamb is smothered in herbs, garlic and lemon and roasted until the meat is ready to fall off the bone.
Perfect for a lazy cooking day, all you need to do is enjoy the amazing aromas coming from the kitchen, then just serve, with the juices drizzled over - perfection!
Why you will love this dish
If a Mediterranean holiday trip to Greece or the Greek islands seems a long way off, this recipe will definitely transport you to sunnier climes.
The recipe takes minimal effort then the oven does all the work - the meat is then so tender that it literally falls off the bone. All you need to do is spoon over the delicious juices and serve with a selection of salads.
It's a perfect spring dish, particularly at Easter. Think of the fresh aromas of mint and lemon and imagine walking into the kitchen with this in the oven. It just smells amazing!
Best of all you can put it in the oven, go out for a few hours and come back to a perfectly cooked meal.
What are the ingredients?
The secret to this recipe is fresh herbs. I've used garden mint, lemon mint and fresh oregano to really get the maximum flavour into the lamb. If you don't have lemon mint just use extra garden mint. You could also use dried herbs, but use only half the quantity.
For the rest of the flavours you will need lemons, seasoning, garlic and olive oil. Regular olive oil is fine for this.
Whilst you could use a leg of lamb, you will get better results with a lamb shoulder joint on the bone. With all the connective tissue and fat on the joint, it will naturally make the most amazing juices and be meltingly tender.
How to make the slow cooked lamb
Chop the herbs, slice the garlic and zest and juice the lemons.
Line an oven tin with foil which will completely cover the base and enough to cover the lamb comfortably.
Rub the lamb with the olive oil and season well then pile on all the herbs, garlic and lemon juice.
Close the foil tightly, but allow some air around the lamb. At this point you could leave the meat to marinate for a few hours.
Roast at 160C/310F for 3-4 hours, or until the lamb is really tender and just needs a fork to pull it apart.
Undo the foil, without losing the juices, and put it back into the oven for about 30 minutes at 180C/350F degrees to brown the meat. This is not traditional but I think the meat should have some colour!
Carefully lift the meat onto a carving tray and cover loosely with foil for 10 minutes.
Pour the juices into a jug and skim off any fat that rises to the top after a few minutes.
Tear the meat into chunks and serve with the juices and lemon wedges.
Kleftiko literally means from the Klephs and stolen lamb, the idea coming from the fact that most people were too poor to eat meat and would need to seal it.
Often, potatoes are added to cook alongside the meat in the juices and you could also add a tray of vegetables to roast alongside for the last 40-50 minutes. Try using onion wedges, cubed potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, courgettes, augergines and cherry tomatoes. You can also add whole cloves of garlic and lemon wedges for extra flavour.
I like to serve this with a salad too - try an authentic Greek Salad or Asparagus, Broccoli and Endamame Salad.
If you are entertaining, why not make individual parcels and use lamb shanks instead? Everyone can open their own foil packet at the table and there would be much less clearing up too!
More lamb and slow roast recipes
- 1.5 kg shoulder of lamb
- 4 cloves garlic cloves
- 2 lemons zested and juiced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 2 tbsp mint
- 1 tbsp lemon balm
- Line an oven tray with sufficient foil to generously cover the lamb.
- Place the lamb on the foil and rub with the olive oil.
- Season and spread the remaining ingredients over the lamb.
- Close the foil and roast until very tender, about 3-4 hours at 160C/310F.
- Open the foil and return to the oven for 30 mins at 180 degrees.
- Serve with juices poured over the lamb.