Kleftiko lamb, with yoghurt and herbs


Lamb and Greece go hand in hand, especially in Easter. Normally, we do lamb roasts with oregano sprinkled baked potatoes and huge salads. Tzatziki, of course, is a must to accompany the lamb but apart from the roasts, there is another recipe I love: kleftiko.

The origins of kleftiko are pinned somewhere in the Greek wild mountains almost 200 years ago. It was a time of unrest, guerilla fighters, kleftes in Greek, had taken up to the hills to fight against the ruling Turks. Back then, modern Greece was just an abstract notion, not at all Greece as we know it. The original kleftiko is actually lamb on the spit, slow cooked over a dying fire pit and covered with oregano and thyme, the aromatic shrubs at hand, in order to mask the trails of a fire and still provide a bite of food to eat after wandering on the hilltops. Once again, a recipe paying testament to slow cooking and the ingenuity of people with scarce resources.

 kleftiko before the oven

Some 200 years later, lacking an open-pit fire in central Athens apartments the dish has been altered to accommodate modern living: kleftiko is wrapped in baking parchment, slow cooked with vegetables. Mine though, is a little more basic and paying tribute to quintessentially Greek ingredients: yoghurt, oregano, thyme mint and dill.

Here is what you will need (serves 4-6):


  • 1 kg lamb, leg in chunks
  • 200 ml olive oil
  • 500gr Greek yoghurt
  • 4-5 spring onions
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • a few sprigs of dill, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of mint, finely chopped
  • baking parchment & foil

kleftiko ready for the oven

What to do

  1. Sauté the spring onions and set aside.
  2. In the same pan, heat up a bit of olive oil, seal the lamb.
  3. Add warm water to cover, bring to the boil and let it simmer on a low fire for approximately 35 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the yoghurt with the oregano, thyme, dill and mint, salt and pepper and the rest of the olive oil.
  5. Remove the lamb from the hob, drain and keep the liquid.
  6. Once cooled, mix the lamb with the yoghurt and herbs sauce.
  7. It’s time to prep the mix for the oven. Use a large bowl and place, first a layer of foil, then the baking parchment and add in the center a portion of lamb with lots of sauce. The mix should be quite runny, so if your yoghurt is too thick, add a spoonful of the broth you kept (step 5). Lift the corners of the foil and twist tightly at the center.
  8. Bake in 180 oC for 45 minutes.

This dish is best served warm. Let your guests unwrap it, it’s always intriguing to have a little surprise!

kleftiko with yogurt


with love from Athens

PS In case you have forgotten, Greek Orthodox Easter is celebrated this week.

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