Recipe: Kleftiko, Cypriot Slow Roasted Goat (or Lamb)


Photo by Aglaia Kremezi

This recipe is my version of the Cypriot dish Seth Rosenbaum describes, adapted for the home cook. It is based on the instructions Paula Wolfert gives in her wonderful new book, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking. Note that in Greece there is confusion about the term kleftiko, which means juicy lamb or goat baked in a clay pot with vegetables, but also boned pieces of lamb, baked with vegetables and cheese wrapped in phyllo.

Serves 8

    • 6 pounds bone-in goat (or lamb) shank, with some ribs, bones cracked by the butcher at several places, but pieces still attached.


    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup olive oil, more if you are baking potatoes
    • 1/3 cup dry red wine
    • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 2 tablespoons Greek oregano
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 2 to 3 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
    • 2 teaspoons salt or to taste
    • Fresh twigs from a carob tree, or vine cuttings
    • 2 pounds medium potatoes, peeled and quartered (optional)

The night before baking, wash the meat, pat dry with paper towels and place in a deep pan that holds the pieces snugly.

In a blender pour the lemon, olive oil, wine, and add the garlic, oregano, cumin, pepper and salt, and process briefly. Pour the marinade over the meat, turn the pieces and rub to coat all over. Cover and refrigerate overnight, and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 475 F.

Line a large clay pot (see note) with carob tree twigs or vine cuttings and place the meat on them. Pour the marinade over the meat once more, cover with the lid and place in the hot oven. Bake for 20 minutes and reduce the heat to 300 F. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, if you are using potatoes, warm 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the potatoes, turning often with a spatula, just until they start to color.

Remove the clay pot from the oven and place on a wooden surface or on folded kitchen towel. Uncover, lift the meat, discard the twigs and add the potatoes to the pan, tossing with the pan juices. Place the meat over the potatoes, cover, and continue baking for another 45 minutes to an hour--or more, until the meat and potatoes are cooked.

Uncover the pot and, if you like, bake for another 15 to 25 minutes, until the skin is charred and crackling--usually this step is not needed. Bring to the table, carve, and serve immediately.

NOTE: If you don't have a large clay pot with lid, you can bake the meat in a Dutch oven. Adjust roasting time as the clay pot is thicker and needs more time to heat through, but retains heat longer.

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Aglaia Kremezi writes about food in Greek, European, and American magazines, publishes books about Mediterranean cooking in the U.S. and Greece, and teaches cooking classes. More

Aglaia Kremezi has changed her life and her profession many times over. She currently writes about food in Greek, European and American magazines, publishes books about Greek and Mediterranean cooking in the US and in Greece, and teaches cooking to small groups of travelers who visit Kea. Before that she was a journalist and editor, writing about everything, except politics. She has been the editor in chief and the creator of news, women's, and life-style magazines, her last disastrous venture being a "TV guide for thinking people," a contradiction in terms, at least in her country. She studied art, graphic design, and photography at the Polytechnic of Central London. For five years she taught photography to graphic designers while freelancing as a news and fashion photographer for Athenian magazines and newspapers. Editors liked her extended captions more than the pieces the journalists submitted for the events she took pictures for, so she was encouraged to do her own stories, gradually becoming a full time journalist and editor. You can visit her website at

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