Μουούρι — Easter Lamb (from Kalymnos)

For now, Greek custom dictates exchanging the wish Καλή Ανάσταση (pronounced ka-li  a-na-sta-si) or Καλό Πάσχα (pronounced ka-lo  Pa-scha) with others, but on Saturday night as the clock strikes 12 a.m. and Holy/Great Saturday gives way to Easter Sunday, all will be exclaiming, Χριστός Ανέστη (Christ has Risen)! 

The preparation of our lamb begins on Great Saturday. For a number of generations we have followed the traditional Kalymnian way of making lamb on Easter. This rich lamb dish is known as Mouri on the island of Kalymnos and it is something I began making a few years ago after I was first married, following in the footsteps of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents before them. Mouri consists of a whole lamb stuffed with a mixture of rice, ground meat, chopped lamb liver, tomato, pine nuts, onion and plenty of cinnamon. Traditionally, the stuffed lamb is placed in an outdoor oven and sealed to cook slowly beginning early Great Saturday, through the night and onto the early morning of Easter. It is then unsealed to reveal fragrant, utterly moist lamb meat accompanied by a flavorful stuffing infused with all the flavors of the lamb itself as well. This is a purely rustic dish with no pretensions, just wonderful flavors that symbolize Easter for me.

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! 

Μουούρι (Mouri) – Stuffed whole lamb from Kalymnos
This recipe serves a good 20 to 25 people

1 whole lamb, about 25 lbs.
2 – 3 lemons, halved
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Ground cinnamon
1 large can tomato paste
1 stick butter, room temperature

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

Large needle
Kitchen string

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.

Kali Orexi!

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14 Responses to “Μουούρι — Easter Lamb (from Kalymnos)”

  1. Peter says:

    This something totally, totally new to me but I do recall our chat about this unique way the Kalymnians do Easter lamb.

    I look forward to your Easter re-cap and wish you a Happy Easter.

  2. Ivy says:

    Maria mou mouri sounds delicious. The filling is similar to the one we make in Cyprus for the Turkey during Christmas. Euchomai Kali Anastasi, na chairesai tin oikogenia sou kai chronia polla gia ton antra sou pou giortazei.

  3. Love this, Maria! Κalo Pascha kai hronia polla ston antra sou.:)

  4. Happy Easter and thanks for the lesson. I love the eggs and the lamb looks hearty and delicious. I want me some of that!

  5. maria says:

    wow, this looks pretty amazing – stuffed meat is not a specialty of crete, so this is one dish i have not yet been lucky enough to try


  6. Joan Nova says:

    Wow – this looks wonderful and you’ve given me the idea to add cinnamon to my seasonings. I’m planning to stuff a leg of lamb with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mint, toasted pignolis and feta.

    Happy Easter to you and your family.

  7. Teresa says:

    Maria, this lamb dish sounds absolutely delicious. I love lamb. And your Easter eggs look adorable.

  8. Anna A. says:

    This is really incredible! I wish I could come to your place for Pacha, Maria. I will be volunteering at the loukomades station this year at our church’s picnic instead. Good times but no stuffed lamb =(

  9. This lamb dish looks and sounds divine Maria…I look forward to your Easter recap. Hronia Polla!

  10. Foodjunkie says:

    Xronia polla maria. Another great recipe from Kalymnos. I made the chickpeas with caramelized onions and turned out fantastic.

  11. [...] squirts in brine), Phylla (meat-stuffed grape leaves), baked chickpeas with caramelized onions and Mouri to name a [...]

  12. Ivy says:

    Maria mou thanks. I thought it was familiar but was too sleepy to check it out. Now I have bookmarked it and I hope it make sometime soon.

  13. Miranda says:

    This is my favorite favorite dish, thank you for posting a recipe! Kalo Pascha!

  14. Manny says:

    Hi Maria I was looking how to cook chickpeas and your recipe came up I am given it a go now it looked very yummy on the photo
    And by the way I am from Tenedos an island which belongs to Turkey now close to Limnos ,however once it was Greek and my mum and all Tenedians had a whole stuffed lamb too for Easter which the recipe is very close to yours, thank you very much for the recipes . I leave in melbourne Australia

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