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Traditional Greek Recipes: Lamb Kleftiko




By Georgene Dilernia

Lamb Kleftiko is a Greek household favourite. The slow roasted meat with garlic, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes just falls from the bone and is enjoyed by many.

Like many things in Greece, the meal is steeped in history. The dish is said to be named after the Klephts, who were a group of bandits who fought Ottoman rule in Greece. The bandits would cook their ill-gotten gains on coals in a covered hole or underground pit to avoid detection.

The meal cooked by Greeks today is delicious, tender and guaranteed to satisfy the appetites of anyone looking for a filling meal.

Take a look below to see how you can cook this tasty recipe!


  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  • 1 head of garlic (about 10 cloves), crushed
  • 6 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, plus extra to garnish
  • 1.5kg waxy main-crop potatoes, such as Desiree
  • 6 large tomatoes, skinned and cut into small chunks
  • 200g feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
  • 6 small lamb hind shanks, each weighing between 350-400g


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, fan 170°C, gas 5. 
  2. Put 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the lemon juice, crushed garlic, bay leaves, dried and fresh oregano into a large, heavy-based casserole with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper and stir together.
  3. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large 6cm chunks. 
  4. Add them to the casserole with the chopped tomatoes and 150g crumbled feta cheese and mix together well. 
  5. Nestle the lamb shanks down into the potato mixture and pour over 100ml water; drizzle with the rest of the olive oil.
  6. Cover the casserole with foil and a close-fitting lid and bake for 3 hours until the meat is falling off the bone, checking after 2 hours to see if it needs a little more water. 
  7. Cook uncovered for the final 30 minutes. 
  8. Serve at the table, straight from the pot, scattered with a little more oregano and the remaining feta.

Kali Oreski!

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