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Lamb Bandit-style

24 October 2013 / 09:10:05  Danielle Lachana
3626 reads

LAMB BANDIT-STYLE or ''Stolen'' Lamb

First steal your lamb, then dig a big hole in the ground...

Or, go for this modern-day version below.

The Greek name for this dish, ''Arni Kleftiko'' comes from the Greek word 'klevo' which means to steal, and 'arni' which is lamb.

Its origins date back to around five hundred years ago when many poor farmers who were unable to pay their taxes or debts and were pursued by the authorities fled to hide in the mountains, where they continued to oppose the Ottoman rule until the 19th Century.

 

They became known as 'kleftes' since they had to steal food to survive - typically lambs or goats. In order not to be discovered while cooking their food, (the aroma or smoke would betray their location), they dug a large hole in the ground, lined it with branches and lit a fire in it. Here they would place the meat, covering it with more branches and herbs such as bay leaves, oregano and wild garlic, and adding pieces of hard strong-flavoured cheese. They would leave it there, hidden in the hole, for several hours or even over night, to roast slowly and for its flavour to mingle with that of the fresh herbs.

 * * *

RECIPE

Serves 6 as a main course

 Variations:

Almost every recipe today now includes at least potatoes, although originally the lamb would be cooked in the ground with the sole addition of the herbs and cheese available to the ''thieves''. (Some 'modern' recipes also include sliced carrots, diced fresh tomatoes, and even onions, peas and green beans, green and red peppers, red wine, etc., all of which make for a very tasty dish, but this is far removed from the essence of the original -  add any of them if you wish.)

 METHOD

Wash the meat well and dry on kitchen paper. Transfer to a bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients with a fork until well amalgamated. Pour over the pieces of meat, cover the bowl with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour, but preferably overnight.

Remove the lamb and reserve the marinade.

In a large frying pan, sauté the lamb pieces in the butter and oil over a medium-high heat, turning now and again until golden brown all over.

Cut the baking paper into 6 rectangles large enough to form the parcels* and do the same with the aluminium foil. I find that using this double layer helps keep all those precious juices inside but you can just use the paper or just the aluminium foil as long as you tuck the ends well under. (If you prefer to make one large parcel, instead of 6 individual parcels you can use one large piece of aluminium foil twice the size of a casserole dish which you can lay in the bottom, fill with the meat and other ingredients, then fold over the top and tightly seal).

Brush each piece of baking paper with a little of the reserved marinade then divide the meat between the six parcels and surround with the potatoes and, if using, the carrots and any other vegetables you may have added.

Top the meat with the pieces of cheese, add some garlic slices and 2 pieces of bay leaf to each parcel, then pour the remaining marinade over the top.

Fold the corners of the paper to the centre so that they overlap (a bit like an envelope) then overwrap with the aluminium foil tucking the ends underneath so that nothing can escape.

* Another attractive presentation method is to make little bags out of the baking paper by tying the top with kitchen string (see below).

 

 Arrange the parcels (or little bags) close together in a large baking dish (approximately 35 cm  x 35 cm) and pour in water up to a quarter of the height of the dish.

 

Bake in a moderate pre-heated oven at 160 C (320 F, Gas mark 3) for around 3 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender (falling off the bone) and the potatoes and any other vegetables you may have used are cooked.

Add more water to the dish if necessary.

Serve hot, direct from the parcels.

Enjoy your ''stolen'' meal!

Tags: lamb kleftiko bandit style mediterranean cuisine baked lamb recipes
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