Here at home, we cook our lamb in our regular oven within an enormous roasting pan sealed well with aluminum foil. The aroma of the lamb slowly cooking from Great Saturday is indescribable. You can view a short video of a lamb being stuffed by a resident of Kalymnos here.
As it is my husband’s name day, we host Easter here at home. To start the celebration there is definitely my husband’s favorite Kokoretsi (seasoned lamb or goat sweetbreads, heart, liver and/or kidney skewered, wrapped in the animal’s small intestine and roasted) along with a few other mezedes to nibble on before we get to the Mouri. Last year I served a Bacon and Onion Tart, some Herbed Goat Cheese atop Greek Rusks, an Olive and Caper Tapenade, Anchovies and Fresh Baked Bread in our backyard while the children played on the lawn. We then moved onto the Mouri accompanied by Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms tossed in butter and parsley and an amazing Lettuce, Fennel, Parsley and Dill Salad with a Honey Vinaigrette.
This year we’ll start things off with the Kokoretsi, Kontosouvli (which I am admittedly getting from the butcher–the lamb is a BIG project!!), an Asparagus Tart, this Kremmydopita (onion pie) and Brie served with crackers and fresh-baked Bread flavored with Anise. The main dishes will, of course, include the Mouri, then I’m thinking of whipping up this warm salad of Peas and Green Beans with a Parsley-Walnut Pesto and definitely that amazing salad I served last year.
And here is my family’s recipe for our stuffed whole lamb … the few photos I have here are from last year and I apologize for not having more illustrating the whole process. Don’t be intimidated: the process isn’t as difficult as it seems and once it is in the oven you have nothing to do but wait, add just a little water to the pan every now and then and enjoy the aroma of this utterly delicious lamb dish!
3 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. liver, chopped
3 large onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 large tomato paste
4 cinnamon sticks
6 cups rice
8 cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Begin the stuffing: brown beef in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the liver, then the onion. Cook about 5 minutes until the onion is soft. Stir in the butter, cinnamon sticks and pine nuts then add the tomato paste and stir well. Begin adding the water, one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Let the mixture cook, uncovered, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, clean lamb well inside and out (removing of course any organs left in the cavity); cut excess fat from around lamb; scrub skin well under water, then pat dry.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 375 degrees. Layer foil in an extra large roasting pan (I bought my giant aluminium pan from a restaurant depot), making sure the foil extends well over the sides of the pan to later fold over the lamb and “seal” it in. Place the cleaned lamb in the pan and rub the lamb well all over– inside and out– with the lemon halves. Let stand a couple of minutes. Rub the butter over the lamb, season well with salt, pepper and ground cinnamon then smear the tomato paste all over the lamb as well. Spoon the stuffing into the cavity of the lamb. Using the needle and kitchen string, “sew” the cavity closed. Tie legs to fit in pan if necessary then fold the foil over the lamb to seal it in. Add about one-inch of water to the pan around the foil (not inside the lamb). Cover the entire roasting pan with additional foil then place in oven. Cook for one hour at 375 degrees, then reduce temp to 300 degrees and cook for 6 hours longer. Periodically check pan and add water as necessary. After six hours, turn oven off and leave pan in closed oven overnight (don’t open oven at all in the last 1 – 1 1/2 of cooking). (When you wake in the morning you will see that the lamb is still quite warm).
Begin reheating the lamb about 2 hours before guests arrive. Once heated through, unseal slice lamb and serve with plenty of stuffing.