I’m not proud when it comes to where I find inspiration. I’ll take it wherever it turns up. This week, when visitors have just come from Greece and they brought some goodies it’s so obvious it’s a pure bonus.
There are perfumed lemons picked from the tree mere moments before they’d left Athens. There are sharp and bitter purple Kalamatas and a bottle of Boutari Naoussa, red wine from near Edessa way up north.
The lemons have soft, thick skins and so heavy with juice slices had to be diverted to the gin and tonics. But what to cook? We’ve got some great lamb here on the Rock so Kleftiko seemed the obvious Greek inspired Arran lamb for Easter.
Maybe I’ve introduced a couple of variations into my Kleftiko, but I bet every Greek house has it’s own wee foibles that make their recipe unique. Kleftiko is an easy, one-pot lamb recipe. It’s great at this time of year when the lamb’s a bit older or when you’ve got a cheaper joint that needs to be slow-cooked. I got a shoulder of Arran lamb for Easter at the Arran Butcher down at Blackwaterfoot.
Once it was hot, I put some cooking grade olive oil in my favourite le Creuset and seared the joint all over. I browned a chopped onion and some garlic in beside the meat before I added chopped oregano leaves and poured in a glass of the white wine I had in the fridge. One of those juicy lemons got chopped and added to the pan complete with skin. Salt and pepper, lid on and into the oven for a couple of hours slow cooking.
About 30 minutes before we needed it I added chunks of potato and quarters of red pepper with the skin blowtorched off along with a handful of olives. There’s no problem if Kleftico waits while the gins get finished. Slow cooking in wine and lemon juice steam makes the lamb meltingly tender and it’s best eaten as it’s cooling down. Taste the gravy, adjust the seasoning and Robert’s your father’s brother. The casserole goes in the middle of the table, everyone arms themselves with cutlery and they help themselves.
Greek wine? Yeah, other people had that same, skeptical, enquiring look. And yes, at first sip the wine did seem a touch thin and disappointing. After a taste of Kleftiko, ‘though; it came to life and soared. My sister’s a strong advocate of, “terroir”, the principal that things that grow together go together. She’d have loved this combination.
Arran lamb for Easter? Inspiration’s a fine thing wherever you find it.