In order to cook their food without being detected by the patrols, they had to hide the smoke from their cooking fire and the aroma of roasting meat. Nor did their fugitive existence allow them to remain in the same place for the six or seven hours necessary to oversee the cooking of their meal. So they used to dig a hollow in the ground, light a fire in the bottom of it and then cover the embers with branches and soil. Then they cut the lamb or goat (which was stolen from the landowners), season it and add chunks of hard, spicy cheese, place the meat wrapped in its own skin on top, and then covered it with more branches and soil. The meat roasted slowly in this earth-oven for several hours and the roasted meat gradually took on the aroma of its covering of bay leaves and carob leaves, as well as the flavors of oregano and thyme, lemon and wild garlic. Hours later they returned, uncovered the roast meat and enjoyed their “thieves’ dinner” or “kleftiko”.
In our restaurant, five hundred years later, we serve kleftiko wrapped in dark brown grease-proof paper. We have added mustard seeds, carrots, green peppers, potatoes and onions for a touch of luxury and voila … ladies and gentlemen, your kleftiko – succulent, aromatic and delicious. Enjoy it!