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Monday, April 28, 2008

Greek Easter Lamb Roast 2008

Happily turning the spitted Easter lamb in 1973!

For over three millennia since the time of Homer’s Iliad (and likely long before), Greeks have been famous for roasting spitted meats. Indeed, if we take Homer’s word for it, Achilles and the rest of the Greek heroes who took part in the siege and sack of Troy ate little else. But then, what would one expect such legendary warriors to eat if not spitted roast meat? There is something inherently masculine in the whole affair of preparing and roasting an entire carcass over a bed of charcoal, and it has held a fascination for me since my earliest years.

The Greek Easter celebration has always been my favourite food holiday. For as long as I or anyone in my family can remember, there has always been a lamb roast involved. Ever since my uncle Apostolis fabricated our first spit stand kit in 1973, my father has hosted and prepared the majority of our family’s Easter gatherings. Rain or shine, we have repeated the traditional process each year. Whenever it did rain, we simply moved the whole kit and caboodle into our garage. A couple spit stands later, along with the introduction of an electric motor to turn our roasting lamb and things have continued much as they always have…

Our 2008 Easter lamb and kontosouvli roasting side by side.

After the 40 day Lenten fast, the smell and taste of a little roast lamb is a truly fulfilling experience. As we were enjoying the wonderful food, drink, and weather yesterday at my parents' home, my father was in a fine mood and was re-telling tales of past Easter celebrations for my wife’s benefit. He went on to relate how on a couple occasions he had had to work a late night shift that carried through to the morning and had relied on the rest of us (mainly my mother and I), to have everything going when he arrived home from work on Easter morning. Until she heard my father utter these words, my wife (as she remarked to me later) had never truly appreciated just how deep-seated my fascination with Greek food really was. In answer, I dug up the earliest photo I could find of my love affair with Greek food and have used it to head up this posting (yes, that is me back in 1973).

This year, my father dressed and prepared the lamb once more. Beside the lamb, he added a second spit of kontosouvli (‘short-spit’ in English translation), with a stuffed chicken appended for those among my family who do not care for lamb or pork (Yes, they do exist!). Now, the kontosouvli is essentially a giant pork souvlaki (which translates as ‘small-spit’ or ‘skewer’ in English). Though it is more customary to roast a kokoretsi (spitted lamb offal) alongside the Easter lamb, my father likes to mix it up and alternates yearly between kokoretsi and kontosouvli.

My father takes especial care in preparing both the lamb and kontosouvli as each has its own method and ingredients, and he guards his recipes zealously. As there will no doubt be many Greek Easter lamb recipes published already, I thought I might share my father’s kontosouvli recipe instead. Even though he was not exactly thrilled about sharing his recipe with the Internet (as he put it), my father grudgingly gave his permission…

Kontosouvli Recipe:

6 ½ lbs (3 kg.) boneless pork shoulder cut into fairly large chunks
2 large heads of garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
1 water glass (10 oz.) white wine
1 cup of chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup paprika
¼ cup dried Greek oregano
Lots of extra virgin olive oil, likely 3 cups (750 ml.) or more as required
Lots of salt and fresh ground pepper (roughly a generous handful of each)

  1. Ensure that the meat is cut into largish chunks, about the size of an apple or so.
  2. Wash the meat well and then add it to a large basin or mixing bowl.
  3. Add salt, pepper, paprika, rosemary, garlic and wine to the meat and mix together well. Once the seasonings have been thoroughly mixed into the meat, add enough olive oil to ensure that the meat is entirely immersed, and then give everything another thorough mixing.
  4. Let stand in the refrigerator for 48 hours so the meat can be fully permeated with the flavourings of the marinade.
  5. Spit meat and roast over an open charcoal flame until well done.
  6. Cut the cooked meat right off the spit into a pan held under it and serve up immediately.

Alithos Anesti! Truly He has Risen! (The traditional response to the Greek Easter greeting “Christos Anesti” or “Christ Has Risen”.)

Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand

Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.


Peter M said...

Sam, It's great that your dad shared his Kontosouvli recipe with us and you relating the day's sentimental feeling for you and your family.

Easter should be in the "Top 10 reasons to be GreeK".

Kai tou Xronou.

Laurie Constantino said...

Kontosouvli is always my favorite, although it's hard to pick when the choices are lamb, kokoretsi, or kontosouvli, all of which I love. Thank your father for sharing his wonderful recipe. Xristos Anesti!

ΠΡΕΖΑ TV said...

Και του χρονου!!!

kittie said...

Nice post - and thanks to your father for allowing us to see his recipe. I love family recipe tales like that!

Lulu said...

Tell your father the Internet loves him and thanks him! Efharisto para para para poli!

olga said...

Χριστός Ανέστη!!!!!!
Ζώ στην Αλεξανδρουπολη και χαιρετώ την αλλη μισή πατριδα που ζει στο εξωτερικό.Να σας έχει ο Θεός καλά.
Α.... βλέπω οτι απο το αρνί λείπει λίγη πέτσα don't worry και δώ τα ιδια κάνουμε.........

George Burns said...

I misread the recipe and used lamb instead of pork. Should be interesting when all is done.