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Arnaki Kleftiko: Bandit's Lamb

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Bandit's  Lamb - Kleftiko - Greek Food Photos

Bandit's lamb cooked in parchment paper

© Jim Stanfield

In Greek: αρνάκι κλέφτικο, pronounced ahr-NAH-kee KLEF-tee-koh

This recipe is an adaptation of a dish fixed in the mountains by guerillas (bandits) who needed to cook without being seen. They placed the meat on coals in a hole, covered it up, and let it cook for up to 24 hours. No trace of any stolen animal, and no smell of cooking meat to give them away. If you don't like garlic, this might not be the dish for you.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 4 pound leg of lamb
  • 10-12 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 ounces of cheese (kefalotyri, pecorino) cut in cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 pounds of roasting or baking potatoes, peeled, cut in half or quarters
  • 3 medium carrots, cut in chunks
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-5 sheets of parchment cooking paper
  • water

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 480F (250C).

Rub the lamb with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. With a sharp knife, pierce the lamb and insert a clove of garlic and a piece of cheese into each opening.

Drizzle the potatoes and carrots with any remaining oil, season to taste with salt and pepper.

On a clean work surface, spread out the parchment sheets and lay the lamb in the center, with the potatoes and carrots. If there is any remaining cheese and/or garlic cloves, add as well. Close the parchment paper and secure well, tucking the sides underneath to make a packet.

Fill a roasting pan 1/3 full of water, add the packet and cook for 2 hours 30 minutes, adding more water to the pan as needed to keep from getting dry.

When done, lift the entire packet onto a serving platter, and cut open at the table to serve.

Yield: serves 4

Alternate preparation: Cut meat into serving size portions and wrap each portion, together with portion-size serving of potatoes and carrots, individually. Set side by side in roasting pan to cook, and serve one packet to each plate.

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