A Thief’s Favourite
Also known as Kleftiko, this a traditional Turkish recipe in which lamb is marinated in olive oil, garlic, onions and herbs and slowly cooked in greaseproof paper or foil, keeping all the juices and flavours together.
Also referred to by local as ‘Hirsiz Kebabı’ (Kebab of Thieves), traditionally, lambs or goats in the mountains were stolen from their flock and then cooked for hours in improvised underground ovens sealed with mud, to disguise the smell and smoke, avoiding detection.
The success of this famous dish depends on slow roasting, until the meat fairly falls off the bone.
This local favourite is usually made with a leg of lamb which becomes very tender once cooked. Though the leaner leg looks impressive and is a cut better suited to faster cooking and served pink, the tougher, fattier shoulder, benefits from slow cooking, becoming wonderfully juicy and rich.
The prolonged cooking time in a well-sealed traditional clay oven offers a tender dish that cannot be achieved with conventional cooking.
Almost always served with Cypriot roast potatoes, some prefer to cook the vegetables together with the meat, for the true flavour and aroma experience.
Seasoned with oregano and bay leaves, a little acidity from a squeezed lemon helps to cut through the richness of the meat and potatoes, so you can keep going back for more.
Kup Kebab is usually cooked on Sunday’s and there are both mountainside retreats and seaside restaurants all across North Cyprus serving similar recipes.
Best accompanied by a glass of Turkish Raki and a nap in the shade of a gnarly fig tree afterwards!