Every girl likes to receive a big, bountiful bouquet every now and again – and I am no exception. Mr K knows my favourite bloom – and it’s not pretty pink peonies to sit in a glass vase and slowly wilt. Give me beautiful green and violet flecked artichokes to put in a pot, every time! Ever attentive, my springtime bouquets have been arriving from Mr K in plentiful numbers – in fact great boxes with kilos of these thistle-like beauties. Some have gone into the classic “city style” dish – slow cooked with lemon, carrots and spring peas and potatoes. Some have gone the way of delicious Zakynthian rice and herb filled artichokes – others the way of simple, herb and artichoke filled souffle omelet or into a Provencal inspired pot with white wine, herbs and tomatoes. However, the time had come for this mainly “vegetarian – pescatarian- artichoke – eating” household to enjoy another spring delight – lamb!
Eating meat is a rarity at Casa Mulberry – and when it is eaten, it is usually for a special occasion, celebrating with friends and family. There is always much deliberation about the method of cooking - lamb in the oven, whole spit-roasted lamb, lamb stews, lamb with pasta, lamb in phyllo and braised lamb dishes – or lamb in a clay pot!
My wonderful clay pot, which was a special Christmas gift the first year we were married, is from the wonderful “Captain” – of “Captain Imports” at Kogarah. This is the man to see if you need any type of Greek or Cyprian Clay pot, a backyard oven or any type of spit-roasting equipment you could ever think of! Make sure you put aside a little time for your purchase, because the Captain likes to conduct business over a little Greek coffee – or perhaps an ouzo (or two). When Mr K went to buy my wonderful clay pot….a few ouzo’s later he had one for his mother-in-law, his aunt-in-law…you get the picture…in fact such a good time was had on this shopping trip with the Captain that Mr K was invited back to have a cook up and test out the dome shaped backyard ovens!
This recipe is based on the instructions given by the Captain to Mr K for clay pot cooking – the term for this type of dish in Greece is “kleftiko”, meaning juicy lamb or goat baked in a clay pot with vegetables (not to be confused with lamb, baked with vegetables and cheese wrapped in phyllo or baking paper). You can use any type of vegetables you like in this dish – but avoid any that will release a lot of liquid. The traditional choice is usually just potatoes and a few onions, but this is a real spring time dish with new season potatoes and artichokes added to the mix.
Clay-pot lamb “kleftiko” with artichokes (Κλέφτικο με αγκινάρες)
1 lamb shoulder, with bone removed
2 onions (one red and one brown), roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, left with skin on but cloves separated
2-3 new season potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
8 artichokes, cleaned and halved – leave to soak in acidulated water until ready to use.
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil, (plus a little more for frying the onions)
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or chili flakes to taste
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1. The night before baking, wash the meat, pat dry with paper towels and place in a dish.
2. In a jar, add the lemon, olive oil, dill salt and pepper. Shake well to combine and then pour the marinade over the meat and rub to coat all over. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 475F or 220C.
4. Place a fry pan over medium heat and sauté the onions until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Taking your clay pot, line the base with a little olive oil, garlic cloves and the onions and place the meat on top. Pour the marinade over the meat once more, cover with the lid and secure with a piece of foil or baking paper with string to create an airtight seal. Place in the hot oven. Bake for 20 minutes and reduce the heat to 300F or 150C. Bake for 1 & 1/2 hours.
5. Remove the clay pot from the oven and place on a wooden surface – the pot will be very hot. Carefully uncover, lift out the meat and place on a separate plate. Add the potatoes and artichokes to the clay-pot, tossing with the pan juices (you may wish to remove a little of the liquid at this point, if there is too much). Place the meat over the potatoes and artichokes, cover as in step 3, and continue to bake at 300F or 150C for another 1 & 1/2 hours.
6. Uncover the pot and, if you like, bake for another 15 to 25 minutes, until the skin of the lamb is charred and the liquid has reduced. You may not need to carry out this step, as the lamb will caramelise in the clay pot while cooking.
For clay pots and more, visit:
5 Princes Highway
Kogarah NSW 2217