Greek evening with memories of Santorini - 4 hour leg or lamb, greek roast potatoes, Santorini salad, turkey and feta meatballs in tomato sauce


My cousin came to visit us this week with her husband and son. Our mothers were sisters and we were best friends growing up. 

We used to spend holidays together, either I would go and stay with her family or she would come and stay with us for a few weeks. I remember I was only 7 years old when I flew to see her on my own. My parents took me to the airport and someone escorted me to the plane. I had a sign around my neck saying who I was and where I was going. Even nowadays it would sometimes be useful to have that information handy in clear written form. I remember a nice young stewardess with a magnificent blond chignon and a pillbox hat was looking after me on the flight. She sat next to me for take off and landing in case I was scared. I don't remember being scared, just excited and determined I would become like her when I grew up, chignon and all.

It’s lovely to catch up with my cousin properly as we haven’t really kept in touch as well as we should have. It's been Facebook, the occasional email and bumping into each other at the odd family event. 

Today was their first day so they spent the day exploring London, doing shopping and all the normal touristy stuff. The crowds and the bustle of the city were a bit overwhelming particularly to the son, who came home claiming that there are just too many people and they smell bad! So it was lovely to sit down together for a leisurely dinner and a good catch-up over food and wine.

I had decided to go with a Greek theme – I am still in a bit of a love bubble and also still have some olives and wine from our honeymoon to Santorini, so I wanted to build a menu around the gorgeous island. I do a mean slow roast leg of lamb. Unless I run out of time, I never get it wrong, but it does need at least 4 hours in the oven. With the lamb I served crispy potato wedges with Greek spices, and my twist on the Santorini salad. I also made some Greek spiced feta turkey meatballs in tomato sauce in case somebody wasn’t too keen on lamb.

Recipe: 4 hour slow roast leg of lamb

Leg of lamb (appr. 1.5 kg)
4-5 garlic cloves
60 g butter
1 tbsp of sea salt
4-6 sprigs of rosemary
4-6 sprigs of mint (optional)
onion (optional)
1-1.5 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock (optional)

Depending on how much time I have, I might cook the lamb for 7 hours at 120 C, but if I only have 4 hours, I up the oven temperature to 150/160 C. That will give a lovely tender result. Also if the leg is very big I allow more time / higher temperature. The above works for a leg of about 1.5kg.

Make a rub of butter, minced garlic, salt, pepper and chopped herbs. Make several knife holes in the leg a push the rub into the holes and massage all over the leg.

Sometimes i wrap the leg in grease-proof paper and kitchen foil and leave to marinade overnight, but you can also cook immediately.

Place the leg in a deep roasting tin, scatter one large quartered onion around the leg (this is optional but adds flavour to the gravy) and pour a the red wine and a cup of lamb or beef stock in the tin. The stock is also optional, it also works with red wine only, but the stock adds to the flavour and volume of the gravy. We like to have lots of gravy.

Double cover the tray with tin foil and place in the oven. Paste a couple of times throughout the roasting and flip the leg over once or twice. In the end the meat is moist, it falls off the bone and tastes fantastic. You can check the seasoning and add to it towards the end of the cooking if you think you got it wrong in the beginning.

I usually just serve the leg in the sauce like it is (just removing the onion pieces), but if you want you can pour the gravy into a pan and reduce on the cooker for a couple of minutes and serve separately.

Santorini Salad in Fira Old Port

Santorini salad (appr. 4 people)

400 g cherry tomatoes
A medium cucumber
1 red onion
1/2 bell pepper
Handful of capers
Handful of pitted (or unpitted) kalamata olives
150g Feta cheese
Fresh (or dried) herbs of choice
Olive oil
Freshly grated lemon peel and juice (to taste)
Caper leaves for decoration (optional)

Cut the cherry tomato into halfs and cucumber into chunks, deseed if the core seems watery. Slice red onion thinly, add the rest of the ingredients apart for the feta, drizzle with olive oil and lemon, season and mix well. In Santorini often the feta is added on top of the salad as a one big chunk or a couple of fairly big cubes, and sprinkled with Greek dried herb mix – so you can do that. Or you can cube and mix it carefully to the salad. Sprinkle fresh or dried herb on top and decorate the bowl with the caper leaves.

My take on Santorini Salad

In terms of the herbs to use, I left it open. I love dill with feta so I often go for dill, which might be a bit experimental for some. It might be my Scandinavian heritage, so I don’t force it on everyone. I love oregano, fresh and dried and it works well with this recipe. I also do my own greek herb and spice mix that would work perfectly on this salad.

Greek spice mix

2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp salt

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