Whenever I cross the ocean to visit my mother in her lovely North-West London neighbourhood of Primrose Hill, we set out for dinner on our first or second night together to the wondrous nearby Greek restaurant called Limonia. Always packed, it is a local favourite with celebs and regular folk alike.
Often I order fish, souvlaki or lamb in some shape or form. The food is always good, the ambience comfortably elegant and the welcome warm. It’s a ritual dear to my heart.
On our last visit, I suddenly remembered my late dad’s favourite Limonia dish called Kleftiko: a Greek tradition that was originally made by baking lamb secretly under the ground so the cooks in question would not be attacked by their enemies.
Although, on a bad day, I feel this might be a good idea, I spent hours scouring recipes and experimenting with this lemony, herb-laced, fall-off-the-bone version of braised lamb shanks to come up with a more modern recipe.
After several attempts and a great chat with a young chef here in Stratford, here’s what I’ve devised. Not bad if I say so myself.
If using smaller New Zealand lamb shanks rather than the bigger local lamb, just use 6 instead of 4. If using baby potatoes, use about 10.
Juice of 2 lemons
Coarsely grated rind of 1 lemon
About 2 tbsp fresh oregano or thyme leaves, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb/500g each)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
Several sprigs of fresh oregano or thyme
About 6 thin-skinned potatoes, cut in wedges.
In small bowl, whisk together half of lemon juice, lemon rind, herbs and olive oil until creamy.
Place lamb shanks in single layer in large baking dish (I like to use earhenware but glass will do). Poke holes all over each shank with sharp end of knife. Rub lemon mixtire all over each shank. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Let marinate in fridge several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325F.
Add vegetable oil to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb shanks (in batches if necessary); cook, turning once or twice, until well browned all over, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plate.
Add chicken stock, wine, remaining lemon juice and any leftover lemon marinade to skillet. Bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of skillet.
Return browned shanks to baking dish. Pour on stock/wine mixture from skillet. Lay herb sprigs on top. Cover tightly with foil. Place in oven; bake 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Place potato wedges on top of shanks. Re-cover with foil Bake about 1/2 hour more or until potatoes are soft.
Serve 1 shank per person with sauce poured over. Or remove meat from bones and serve as a kind of stew with potatoes.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.