As mentioned previously in one of my first ever recipe posts (Greek Lamb), I am a massive fan of Greek food. Growing up Greece was a popular choice for many of our annual family holidays. Zante or Zakynthos, whichever you prefer to call it, was my first Greek holiday, and one of my fondest memories of this little island was most definitely the local cuisine. We stayed in a fairly quiet village on the North-East of the island called Alikanas, and it is here where I tried my first ever kleftiko. Well, it is here that I actually tried all my favourite Greek dishes for the first time. Souvlaki, stifado, moussaka, afelia, I could keep going but I think you probably get the point, I really REALLY love Greek food!
When it comes to food I have a ridiculously good memory. Whatever the event, wherever the location, I can always remember exactly what I had to eat while I was there. Some people find this weird… I like to think of it as an awesome foodie superpower, which is pretty cool really. Now because of this super rare power I possess I can vividly remember my very first ever kleftiko and even the restaurant I had it in. We’re talking about twelve years ago here people so this is pretty impressive stuff.
Alikanas is laced with restaurants, or tavernas as they’re called in Greece, so we were never short of choice during our two week holiday. One night however, we decided to venture a little further out to a restaurant I believe was called Olive Tree, well something about olives anyway. It was here, in this little lone (but extremely busy) taverna in the middle of nowhere that I tried kleftiko for the very first time.
Several Greek holidays and many kleftikos later I feel now is the right time to finally share my own kleftiko recipe with you all. Based on all the amazing versions I’ve eaten over the years… I hope you enjoy.
2 lamb shanks
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 beef tomatoes, roughly chopped
Half an onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
8 tablespoons of olive oil
Feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and fresh black pepper
You will need baking paper, tin foil and some cooks string for this recipe.
- The first step of this recipe must take place the evening before. In a large bowl mix together the olive oil and lemon zest along with the dried herbs. Add a little salt and fresh black pepper and set to one side.
- Next, carefully make several incisions with a sharp knife all over your lamb shanks and then push the roughly chopped garlic pieces into the slits. Take the lamb shanks and place them into the large bowl making sure they are well coated with the olive oil marinade. Cover and put into the fridge overnight.
- The next day preheat your oven to gas mark 3/170C or 150C for fan assisted ovens and remove the lamb from the fridge to bring it back up to room temperature. Meanwhile you can prepare your vegetables.
- Once everything is prepared get a large square of baking paper and lay flat on the kitchen sideboard. Top with a large square of tin foil and then place one of the lamb shanks in the centre. Place half of your chopped veg around the lamb and pour half of the lamb marinade on top. Season with salt and fresh black pepper and then carefully tie the parcel up making sure there are no gaps for the juices to escape from.
- Repeat the same process for the second lamb shank and then place both parcels in a large baking tin and put into the centre of your preheated oven. Leave for around 3 hours and then remove from the oven and allow to rest for fifteen minutes.
- Carefully open up the parcels and then crumble a generous amount of feta cheese on top. Serve the lamb shanks in their open parcels for the full Greek effect!