Kléftiko - lamb with garlic, fresh oregano and mustard, baked in paper

Apr 10, 2013


  Fighters who led an outlaw existence in the mountains during the War of Independence (1821-28) were called Kléphts. They were rebel bands forced to hide in the forests.  To survive they had to forage for whatever food was available. Often this meant stealing sheep, or goats from the villagers in the area.  Having an open fire over a long period to cook their meal would have betrayed their position to the Turks, so they would dig holes in the ground, for the coals , get them hot, then wrap the meat and cover the package with clay or dirt to slow cook it without the tell-tale smoke or aroma.   It was delicious and today meat that is baked sealed in a container (or wrapped in baking paper) is still called kléftiko – or stolen meat! 
     Traditionally Kléftiko is made with lamb or goat meat along with kefalotyri cheese, potatoes or other vegetables wrapped all together and baked for at least two hours. I personally prefer lamb shoulder cooked only with herbs, olive oil and mustard.

Kléftiko for 4

1200gr lamb shoulder cut in portions
80gr olive oil
4 garlic cloves
2Tbsps of mustard
fresh oregano stems (dry oregano works too)
4Tbsps lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
4 pieces of baking paper (aprox. 40x60)

Preheat the oven to 190 C.
     On your working surface place a piece of baking paper and in the center of it put one
portion of lamb; season with salt and pepper toss with a crushed garlic clove, mustard,
1Tbsp lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil. Carefully fold up the sheets to seal, like a
package ; you might also tie the package with heat proof, food safe thread to ensure that they won't unfold during baking.
     Repeat this process with the other three packages and arrange them all in a baking pan
and  bake for two hours. Serve hot with fried potatoes and salad. I also love sandwiches with cold lamb kleftiko and mustard.


  1. I've just discovered your blog and immediately started to follow it. Greek cuisine is one of my favorite (besides the other Mediterranean), but since we're almost neighborough - it is the closest to me. This lamb will be tried in my cuisine, very soon.

    1. Thank you for passing by Tanja. I hope you'll like the recipe.

  2. Love it! Thanks for recipe :)

  3. I have ordered lamb for September and am looking for recipes, Greek style being my favourite! Thank you for the stolen meat recipe!

  4. I always add some orange slices (Laconia's oranges are the best for this reason). The result resembles more the maniot version of kleftiko. As a sidedish you can prepare a maniot salad with crushed kalamon olives, orange, onion and throumpi.

    1. Every region has a different version of kleftiko. Your suggestion sounds very aromatic.