Karam’s Kleftiko

Contributed by Karam Bharij

[singlepic id=1006 w=320 h=240 float=left]I had Greek Food for the first time in  Manchester UK, where I discovered a Greek taverna near my university “Prego”, meaning “Welcome”. It had a limited range of Greek cuisine – mainly Lamb Kleftiko, Beef Stifado and Lamb Rosto. I fell in love with Kleftiko.

In days bygone, Greek bandits stole sheep, dug a trench, lined it with hot charcoal, stuffed the sheep with feta cheese, olives and wild oregano, placed it on hot embers in the trench and covered it with leaves and soil to stifle smoke and seal in the flavours. They would return in the evening with the day’s loot to feast on the roast.

The owner of Prego became a good friend, meaning he would let me eat on credit sometimes. One day during the course of conversation, he suggested I go on an Aegean and Iona Sea island hopping tour.  Off I went to mainland Greece by train and caught my first ferry to Kos. Thereafter, I would spend a couple of days on an Island and move on to the next by ferry. Half way through my six month adventure, I fell short of money and worked as barman, waiter, cook’s assistant and literally as a pimp standing outside a restaurant luring customers in to eat. Soon I discovered my services were sought after as an English speaker. So I came into money and was able to afford to carry on my tour.

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I tasted Kleftico cooked on all the islands, cooked in different styles. I learnt to cook it then and it still remains one of my favourite Greek dishes. Over the years, I have bastardised it by tampering with the Greek style by infusion of Indian masalas and spices. However, the original Greek style is the best. Without a doubt Merlot red grape wine was made to accompany this heavenly dish.


  • Leg of lamb
  • Juice of two lemons
  • Teaspoon of Oregano
  • Half a teaspoon of Thyme ( Use sparingly as it can over power other herbs.
  • 1 table spoon Garlic paste
  • 1 table spoon  Ginger paste ( not used by Greeks)
  • Sprigs of Rosemary.
  • Dried mint enough to sprinkle on leg of lamb
  • Sliced potatoes
  • Sliced Onion
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Glass of white wine
  • Quarter glass of water


  1. Decant one bottle of red merlot wine into a decanter and leave it at room temperature for the meal. Thereafter commence cooking.
  2. Line Pyrex roasting casserole with potatoes and onions slices
  3. Pour Virgin olive oil on potatoes and onions
  4. Make deep incisions in leg of lamb and fill these with garlic/ginger paste.
  5. Also rub extra ginger/garlic all over the leg of lamb
  6. Place leg of lamb on the potatoes and onions
  7. Pour lime or lemon juice on the meat
  8. Sprinkle all herbs on leg of lamb
  9. Add white wine and quarter Glass of water
  10. I usually slow cook in Electric oven at 200 degrees for 40 minutes
  11. Remove and turn it over – roast for another 40 minutes at 200 degrees
  12. Finally turn the heat to 250 for 30 minutes turn it every 15 minutes.


  1. Drain all the juices into a bowl and place in the fridge.
  2. Skim off the solidified fat and pour the juices back on the leg of lamb.
  3. Slice lamb into good sized strips.
  4. Serve it with sweet corn, mustard, cooked lamb juices saturated potatoes and onions from casserole, cranberry sauce, mint sauce and mustard

I also use chopped chunks of  lambs shoulder – same cooking method.

– Karam

Karam Bharij

a lecturer, freelance photo-journalist afflicted with the travel bug, sampler of fine wines and an avid cook of Kenyan, Indian, Chinese, Greek and French cuisines particularly fusion recipes. He has travelled extensively in Tunisia, the Far East, Europe, Turkey and the Greek Islands in the Aegean and Iona sea. All his travels are off the tourist beats to savour different cultures and foods. He's even crossed the desert with a Bedouin caravan a few years ago living on a rustic diet of Harrissa (ground red chillies with garlic), tomatoes and flat breads.