Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Sunny Greek Food is the antidote to it lashing it down in May: Lamb Kleftiko
I am defying being governed by the weather when it comes to food. Frankly I should be hankering after stodge and putting the fire in because, surprise surprise, Summer seems somewhere in the distance, even though it is 'flaming June' next week. are of any of us who cling to this rock betwixt the Irish and the North Sea really surprised. Not really. If you have a Northern soul then you will not have had a decent Summer since 2006 and the only reason I remember that so vividly is because it was the year that Lola was born and one of the most beautiful memories I have was Lola's penchant for a four o'clock feed, just as the light and, soon after, the heat came creeping across the sky. My favourite time and type of day, and Lola's too, it would seem. Lola spent most of June and July in a nappy only because it was so warm, and me in floaty loose dresses, seeking some sort of Summer breeze amidst the stubborn, but welcome, heat.
Anyway, it's all a memory, because here we are overcast and a bit chilly and whilst the heating isn't on the chances of my getting any washing dry are virtually nil, judging by the threatening furrows of grey cloud in the middle distance so, two fingers to you British weather, for the purposes of this blog post I am in Greece - Sunny, amazing, azure skied Greece.
I first had kleftiko in a taverna in Falaraki (yes, really...) more years ago than I care to remember when I was beginning to eat something other than chips. That was the holiday I also discovered dolmades and tzatsiki as well as finding out I could drink my own body weight in weird, stickily sweet cocktails and shots and actually stay upright. This ability to stay vertical and walk I put down to the ballast of soft, lemony potato and succulent, tender lamb I had eaten several hours earlier. It was substantial enough to keep me going but light (or different!) enough to not believe that you were actually eating something hearty. Stew doesn't 'go' with warm weather does it? But this does...
I halved and adapted the recipe from Rick Stein's 'Mediterranean Escapes', a well battered and splattered tome of my favourite kind of cooking. I know there is a fashion for cookery titles that place some sort of whimsical emphasis on a luxurious ingredient or smell, or taste. I own many of these books, but this title says it all for me. I regularly want to escape this weather and if I had the money and time, the Med would be my escape route. Until then, I will have to put up with dodgy weather, memories of a time when the sun peeped over the horizon with a sense of promise and the fact that one cocktail or indeed one shot would be enough to put this thirty something on her back, the last one probably not a bad thing.
Kleftiko, adapted from 'Mediterranean Escapes' by Rick Stein.
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad and one other (I halved the ingredients you see below)
2 x 1kg shoulders of lamb (each one cut into 3 large chunks through the bone) - I used lamb necks and reduced the cooking time accordingly - It took about an hour and a half.
2kg waxy maincrop potatoes (such as Desiree), peeled and cut into 5-6cm chunks.
1 head of Garlic (outside papery skins removed), cut in half through the middle.
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3-6 Fresh bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (I substituted thyme)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
Juice 2 large lemons
Salt and freshly ground Black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190°
Combine the meat, potatoes and garlic in a large ovenproof casserole dish.
Sprinkle with the dried and fresh herbs, olive oil, lemon juice, 100ml water, 2 teaspoons of salt and plenty of black pepper.
Mix together well, then nestle the pieces of meat down in among the Potatoes. Drizzle with a little more oil.
Cover the casserole tightly with foil and a well-fitting lid and bake for three ( I baked for about on hour and a half) hours until the meat is falling off the bone. (Check after a couple of hours to make sure it doesn’t need a little more water).
Serve, sprinkled with parsley if you like.