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C.C. Hogan

My Kleftiko Lamb Shanks

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A rich dish that is succulent and luscious

Kleftiko is one of those dishes that is famously Greek, but also says much about how much lamb is loved by all of the region and right across the Middle East.

The noble sheep, apart from being one of the silliest animals on the planet, has a wonderful balance of fat and muscle that can handle just about anything done to it. And our food loving Greek friends really do just about everything with it - culinary speaking.

The traditional Kleftiko is lamb legs cooked with garlic and lemon juice on potatoes, sealed up and roasted slowly. But of course, the Greeks like their adventures and I must have eaten twenty variations on a theme in twenty different good restaurants over the years. The one thing all have in common, however, is the cooking method - slow!

I am also a lover of spices from the east, especially cinnamon and cardamon. Again, these two little wonders love lamb and the beast is strong enough to handle them.

So, this is my variation - a little richer and spicier than the Greek original, but I hope you like it! This is for two people.

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 8 small new potatoes
  • 3 Large Carrots
  • 1 stick Rosemary
  • 2 tsp Cardamon seeds
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • pinch Sea Salt
  • 1 tbsp chopped Thyme
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic

Grind up the spices, herbs and garlic into a paste. Add lemon juice and olive oil and keep grinding. 

Cut deep slashes into the shanks and smother in the paste. Put in the fridge and leave to marinate for a few hours.

Chop up the carrots and slice the potatoes. Place in the bottom of a roasting pan - if you have one with a lid, all the better. Lay the lamb shanks on top.

Put the lid on the roasting pan or cover with a couple of layers of foil and roast in a medium oven for an hour and a half.

The lamb will shrink considerably. Check occasionally to make sure any run off of the marinade is not burning. 

Add a couple of cups of water to the bottom of the pan, giving the potatoes and carrots a little stir. Put back into the oven for another hour - turn the over down to medium-low.

And that is it. The lamb will be nearly falling off the shanks and the meat will be rich and spicy, with a lovely perfume. The potatoes will have soaked up the juices and the jus in the bottom of the pan will be rich with meat juices and the marinade.

What is not to love here?

Oh, if you are doing a leg of lamb, it will need a lot longer!

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