Susies  Atsaides



  Greek Recipes

Meat Main Dishes

Easter Lamb on a Spit / Arni Souvlas.

This is the Traditional Easter Sunday favorite for the Greeks. You will find whole lambs roasting side by side over sizzling charcoals in all the villages.


1 whole lamb ground cumin
salt and pepper ground oregano
olive oil ground rosemary
lemon halves fresh basil stems (preferable) or dry basil leaves

Have the butcher remove the head and insides of the lamb, but don’t discard them as they can be used for the Easter soup - Magiritsa.

Wash the carcass under running water and drain well. Lay it out on a large clean surface. Rub it all down with the lemon halves, squeezing the juice out as you go along. Sprinkle it, inside and out with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano and rosemary. At this point, I recommend wrapping it up and refrigerating it over night for the meat to absorb the spices or at least let it stand at room temperature for a few hours.

Attach the carcass to the spit. You will have to spear through its rear end and come up through the neck, so the length of it is stretched out along the spit. Tie the legs, neck and forearms down tight. I use a fine grade aluminum wire that is available at hardware stores and pliers. You have to get the meat secured on the spit so that it turns evenly, without slipping while cooking. I also pass some wire through the body cavity and out the back of the meat at the spine and tie it to the spit from there as well, making it that much more secure. Make it tight – remember as it cooks, it will shrink. When you are finished securing it, use more wire and ‘sew’ up the cavity.

Pouring some oil into your hands, rub the entire carcass so it is coated. This will help seal in the juices as well as give you a crispy outer crust.

Place the spit over the coals. You want to roast it slowly over low heat, for maybe 3 or 4 hours. Remember lamb is best when it’s medium cooked. If you have an electric spit, great. If you have a hand turned one, make sure that you keep the cook in plenty of Ouzo for the duration!

Now here is a Greek Village trick. If you can get fresh basil, cut off a large branch or some stems at least 6 inches long as you want a nice bunch. Tie them securely to a long barbecue fork using butchers cord or wire. You will use this as your basting ‘Brush’. If you can’t find fresh basil sprigs, use some dried leaves in the oil-marinade.

In a bowl, mix the oil, salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, and rosemary – and dry basil if you’re using it. Using the ‘Basil Brush’ or just a plain one, brush this oil-marinade over the meat as it roasts. Obviously, the more you do this, the better the meat. Replace the basil sprigs if needed as they get worn.

Check on the thickest part of the meat for doneness – I pierce the thigh. When it’s cooked, remove it from the spit. Remove all the wire and cut into serving size pieces. Serve it immediately.

Susie’s Note: I can’t tell you what a difference the fresh basil makes. If at all possible, get yourself some, even if it’s a potted plant, as the ‘Basil Brush’ can be used when barbecuing any kind of meat or poultry.


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