Robber's Lamb....Ar-na-ki Klef-ti-ko 1821

Arnaki Kleftiko means the Robber's way of cooking lamb.

This recipe dates back to the years when Greece was fighting for its independence from the Ottoman Empire. Precisely, March 25th 1821, in the mountains of Peloponnisos,  a Greek priest raized the flag of independence and declared war against the oppressor. 
Greeks from  outside Greece, financed the revolution, and came to help govern the newly acquired parts of Greece. These people mostly living in Constantinople were educated, knew many languages, were rich, and wore western clothes.  Greeks from Greece who were doing the actual fighting still wore the "Foustanella" a sort of skirt  and sat on the ground to eat with their hands and secluding their women from male company; just like the Ottomans used to do.
During the revolution,  food was very scarce as it happens in situations like these.  So everybody in need robbed what ever possible in order to satisfy hunger and survive. Lambs, goats were easily found, "taken" and cooked in any way possible. Pots and pans were difficult to find, so any old paper was used to wrap the food in and set by the fire to cook slowly.  There are many ways to cook this meal. I would like to share with you one of the ways as passed on to me by my father.
You will need;
Serves 6-8
-  2 kg of lamb in pieces roughly cut bone and all . The leg or shoulder would be a good choice.
-  4 large onions very thinly sliced.
-  6 tomatoes seeds discarded, roughly chopped.
-  6 potatoes peeled, cut in bite size pieces.
-  2 Tbsp. of thyme.
-  2 sticks of cinnamon
-  6 whole cloves.
-  Salt, lots of pepper and olive oil (prefer Greek extra virgin Kalamata olive oil).
-  Your clay earthenware casserole.
-  Two large sheets of baking paper.
-  String.
-  Preheat empty clay earthenware casserole in oven to 180 degrees C.
-  In a basin, mix lamb, thinly sliced onions, tomatoes, potatoes, thyme, cinnamon, whole cloves, salt, lots of pepper, and olive oil. Make sure the salt, pepper and oil coats everything well.
-  Pile the whole lot in the centre of the baking paper.
-  Take the four corners of the paper and join at the top and tie tightly with the string to make into a pouch.  Make sure you leave some space on the top of the ouch for cooking vapors.
-  Pierce a few holes with a fork around the empty art of the pouch on top, for vapours to exit and avoid an explosion in your oven!
-  Set your pouch in the preheated clay earthenware casserole.  Make it fit with the knot looking up.
-  Bake for three hours.
-  During the last half hour, check your food for doneness and liquids. You can carfully pierce a hole and taste the lamb, onions and potatos for doneness, and check the liquids. It mus be on the dry side but not too dry.
-   When ready, switch oven off, keep casserole in the oven  to stay hot till till serving time.
Serve in casserole and cut open the pouch at table in front of everybody.
Suggested wine: Retsina (Greek residanted white wine)


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