No Souvla, No Problem: Two Recipes for Lamb to Enjoy

Cooked lamb. Photo by Murcotipton, via Wikimedia Commons

As we celebrate Easter, now is the time to enjoy lamb. A traditional favorite, lamb can be prepared in a variety of ways, not just roasted on the souvla. Try lamb with artichokes or arnaki kleftiko, lamb in the style of the klefts, as an alternative to the usual roasted leg of lamb. The kleftes were, of course, the bandits who became freedom-fighters in the War of Independence. To evade capture, the klefts would cook their lamb covered up. The modern recipe features individual packets or bundles that should be opened carefully to allow any steam to escape.

Lamb with Artichokes

6 large artichokes

3 pounds lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches scallions, diced

2 medium to large fresh lemons

2-3 cups water

1 bunch fresh dill, chopped

Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

To prepare the artichokes, rinse in cool water, then remove the toughest outer leaves and cut off the thorny end with a sharp knife. If the stems are intact and in good shape, leave them on and peel off the tough outer layer. Cut the artichokes in half and scoop out the choke with a paring knife. Place the cut halves of artichoke in a bowl of cold water with the juice of half a lemon squeezed in.

Continue with the rest of the artichokes, and set aside until ready to use.

In a large deep pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat and brown the lamb cubes. Add the scallions, a dash of salt, and sauté until translucent.

Artichokes. Photo:

Drain the water from the bowl of artichokes and add the artichokes to the pot. Add the 2 cups water, the juice of one lemon, about half of the fresh dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat and the artichokes are tender. You may need to add additional water if the pot dries out and the artichokes are not quite cooked through.

Add the remaining dill, about ½ cup or to taste, at the end for freshness, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Additional lemon juice may also be added, if desired. Serve immediately with slices of fresh bread.

For a shortcut, try the recipe with Greek frozen artichokes like Barba Stathis brand. If preferred, 2-3 medium potatoes cut into cubes may be added to the pot with the artichokes and cooked until tender. To add richness to the dish, avgolemono can also be added.

For Lamb and Artichokes Avgolemono, prepare the recipe as above, and when the lamb and artichokes are tender, reduce the heat to low and add the avgolemono.

To make avgolemono, whisk 1 large egg with the juice of half a lemon. Add a ladleful of the cooking liquid from the pot to the egg-lemon mixture and continue beating. Pour the egg-lemon mixture into the pot, stir vigorously, and remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Arnaki Kleftiko

2 pounds lamb cut into cubes

Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Dried oregano

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 ounces kefalograviera cheese, cut into squares

2 cups frozen peas

2 medium carrots, cut into rounds

4 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, sliced

2 large tomatoes, sliced into twelve pieces

In a mixing bowl, season the lamb cubes with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add the lemon juice and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinade for an hour. In a sauté pan, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil and lightly cook the peas and carrots, season with salt to taste. Set aside.

In another pan, heat the remaining olive oil and sear the marinated lamb cubes on all sides. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside. In a deep fryer or frying pan, fry the potatoes, until about half done. Sauté the tomatoes in a little oil to start the cooking process. Set aside.

Divide up the cooked lamb cubes between six large pieces of parchment paper or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Add the potatoes, carrots, peas, and cheese, dividing them equally among the lamb cubes, along with two tomato slices for each packet. Season with salt and pepper to taste and fold up the packets or tie with kitchen twine into little bundles. Place the bundles on a baking pan and cook in a preheated 375-degree F oven for about 1 hour. Serve immediately.