Carmelized lamb by Elpida Belogianni

Recipe Corner: Paddy Fermor’s Favorite Caramelized Lamb and Fried Spanakopita


Elpida Belogianni, Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor’s cook at his home in Mani, in the southern Peloponnese in Greece, shares the recipes of some of the late author’s favorite dishes. This was Patrick Leigh Fermor’s favorite lamb dish, which Elpida served with different sides like mashed or oven potatoes, carrot and cauliflower puree, or artichokes with peas. “A man of simple tastes, who ate his meals at the same time every day, could hold his drink, and was an avid smoker. That’s how Elpida Belogianni, who worked as a cook for the late writer from 2001 until his death in 2011, describes Patrick Leigh Fermor.”

“Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, known affectionately as Paddy Fermor (1915-2011), was a 20th century Renaissance man: a dashing war hero, erudite man of letters and arguably the greatest travel writer of his generation. Fermor’s Telegraph obituary described him as ‘a modern Philip Sidney or Lord Byron.’ He was the British writer whose erudite, high-spirited accounts of his adventures in prewar Europe, southern Greece and the Caribbean are widely regarded as classics of travel literature.”

“She approached Paddy, or ‘Kir Michalis’ as he was known by everyone in Mani, about the job at his house in Kardamyli when she heard that the previous cook had left her position. Being an old acquaintance of her father, Giannis Belogiannis, Leigh Fermor hired her on the spot.”

“For health reasons, Leigh Fermor’s wife Joan made sure that he stuck to a strict diet,” Elpida recalls. “When she passed away however, he loosened the restrictions and made new rules, personalized to his tastes: he started eating a lot more meat, which he loved (particularly pork chops with butter and onions, and oven-roasted lamb with vegetables), as well as dishes like moussaka, baked gigantes beans, and eggs sunny-side up with bacon. He created his own dietary plan, which he then stuck to happily and religiously.”

“In the mornings, he would have one cup of Chinese tea, one orange, and three slices of toast: one with orange- or Seville orange marmalade, a second one with butter and marmite, and a third one with gentleman’s relish (a type of anchovy paste). At 11:00, he would have a ‘medium-sweet’ cup of Greek coffee. For lunch he ate whatever Elpida cooked. His afternoon snack consisted of another cup of tea with two Digestive biscuits. Then dinner. He was never a fan of elaborate delicacies; he preferred simple meals, even when hosting large groups of  . He often declared that nothing could beat a plate of lentil stew drizzled with olive oil or a freshly fried fish, dipped briefly in seawater to achieve the perfect saltiness.”

Asked if she remembers any moment in particular from cooking for Paddy, she enthusiastically recalls: “One evening – he was widowed by then – I had cooked him his favorite lamb in the oven, and I thought to recite the poem ‘The Lamb’ by Alexandros Katakouzinos. He listened to it carefully, and it led to a discussion about Greek poetry that lasted all night, as we sat in front of the fire and had large amounts of wine. He was an experienced drinker, but I got really dizzy, and woke up in the morning with the worst headache. As we sat down for lunch that day, I couldn’t speak from the pain. He, on the other hand, was completely fine. Eating his meal in silence while reading a book, he looked up every now and again, shook his head with guilt, and muttered: ‘Poor Elpida, poor Elpida…’”

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

“Mr. Leigh Fermor was a restless scholar with a love of adventure. He   discovered Greece while crossing Europe on foot at the age of 18. After joining the Irish Guards during World War II, he was judged to be promising officer material for the Special Operations Executive, the unit created by Winston Churchill to wage war by unconventional means. His superiors deemed his fluency in modern Greek useful in leading resistance to German occupation in the Aegean. For 18 months he lived disguised as a shepherd in Crete, emerging from the mountains with a team that in 1944 kidnapped Gen. Heinrich Kreipe, the island’s German commander. The operation provoked brutal reprisals toward the local population. It earned Mr. Leigh Fermor the Distinguished Service Order and later became the basis for the 1957 English film ‘Ill Met by Moonlight,’ directed by Michael Powell and starring Dirk Bogarde.”

Patrick Leigh Fermor had worked undercover in Greece for the British military during World War II.

Caramelized Lamb


1 leg of lamb, with bone, cut into medium-sized pieces

3 large onions, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

2-3 fresh bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

5-6 garlic cloves, cut in half

120ml extra virgin olive oil (or half a cup, to taste)

Salt, freshly ground pepper


Season the lamb pieces with salt and pepper.

In a wide and shallow pan, add some olive oil and sauté the onions, carrots and herbs at medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Place the lamb pieces on the pan in a single layer, sauté for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning once. Add the garlic cloves and sauté for 1 minute, or until the garlic is fragrant.

Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Place the contents of the pan in a medium-size, deep roasting pan, making sure the lamb pieces are still placed in a single layer. Do not add any other liquid to the roasting pan, as the food will slow cook in the small amount of flavorful juices that the ingredients will release, particularly the onions which will sweeten the sauce.

Cover the pan well with aluminum foil and cook for about 2 hours. Uncover the pan, raise the temperature to 356 F and leave in for about 15 minutes, until the meat is nicely browned.

Serves 4.

Fried spanakopita by Elpida Belogianni

Fried spanakopita (spinach pie)

Patrick Leigh Fermor loved this dish, which he requested be served whenever he had guests. He accompanied it with fresh yoghurt flavored with very finely chopped spearmint or basil.

Ingredients (for an 11″ pie):

Plenty of olive oil


4 cups all-purpose flour


Freshly ground pepper

Water at room temperature



2/5 cup olive oil, more to taste

3 spring onions, finely chopped

1 leek, cut in thin slices

2 large bunches fresh young spinach (after trimming), finely chopped


Freshly ground pepper

1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg


For the Filling:

Pour the olive oil into a wide and shallow pan. Sauté the onions and leek for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg and sauté for 2-3 more minutes until wilted. Pour the contents into a colander and let drain.


For the Dough:

Pour the flour into a food processor or large mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper. Slowly add water (which should be at room temperature) until the flour is well moistened. Knead with your hands or with a dough hook, very slowly adding water until the wet flour forms a homogeneous mass. Keep kneading until the dough is quite soft and doesn’t stick to your hands – if it begins to stick, add a very small amount of flour.

Divide the dough into two equal parts and start working with one of them – cover the other half with a towel so it doesn’t dry out. Cut the first half into three equal parts. Place each part on a floured surface and press them, one after the other, with the base of your hand: The diameter should be similar to that of a tea cup saucer. Place the three dough “disks” one on top of the other, sprinkling a bit of flour between the pieces. Flatten with a rolling pin on a floured surface, until you create a thin dough disk, wide enough to cover the bottom and the walls of a 11″ non-stick frying pan, with the edges protruding a bit from the pan.

Cut the second half into two equal parts. Repeat the process with two pieces but flatten the dough only until it reaches the same diameter as the pan.


For the Pie:

Oil the pan well (off the heat) and place the three-layered piece of rolled-out dough in it, pressing it up against the walls, with its edges protruding from the pan. Spread the well-drained filling mixture evenly on the base; it’s depth should not exceed more than half of that of the pan.

Cover the stuffing with the smaller piece of two-layered dough. To seal the pie, place the hanging edge of the base inside the pan, folding it over the smaller piece of dough. Baste the top generously with oil, and pour some oil fairly generously between the edges of the pita and the walls of the pan so that it flows to the bottom.

Place the pan on medium heat and fry for 5-6 minutes until the bottom browns nicely and small bubbles form. Remove the pan from the heat. With great care, using two spatulas, flip the pie over in the pan: the bottom, brown part should now be facing up. Place the pan on medium heat again, adding more oil if necessary — this pita needs a lot of oil as the dough absorbs it rapidly. Fry until the second side browns and remove from the heat.

Place the pita on a pile of paper towels to drain excess oil. Allow plenty of time for it to cool properly to about lukewarm, before cutting it like a pizza, in triangular pieces.

Elpida Belogianni

For these recipes, go to:

For more recipes, go to:



In 1996 Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor bequeathed their home in Kardamyli to the Benaki Museum with the intention that the house’s ownership would be transferred to the Museum after their death.

The operation of the Leigh Fermor House includes residencies and educational activities in collaboration with partner Universities as well as scheduled visits and specially organized events open for the public. According to the expressed desire of the Leigh Fermors and the donation contract, the house can be used to host researchers who are looking for a quiet and hospitable place to work. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) approved the Benaki Museum’s request to fully cover the repair works at the House as well as the cost of the necessary equipment, for the operation of the Leigh Fermor House.

The Leigh Fermors also granted the museum the right to rent the property for a period of three months per year. Under the alliance the museum will ensure the preservation of the house and its contents, and enable members of the public to have access to the property, while hospitality services will be provided by Aria Hotels, that specializes in the provision of authentic retreats in restored, historic Greek properties. The Leigh Fermor House is considered one of the most beautiful properties in Greece. Within a Mediterranean garden of cypress trees, olive trees, fragrant shrubs, white oleanders and wild flowers rolling down to the sea, stand three stone buildings: the Main House with three suites, the writer’s studio right next to it, which is formed into the Traditional House, as well as the Guest House, adjacent to the Main House. Available to rent from June through August each year, it remains the perfect spot for an idyllic Greek vacation.

For Patrick Leigh Fermor’s obituary, see:


Connect at:

This article was first published in Greek in the April issue of <> Gastronomos magazine, which features a range of Easter dishes photographed in the home of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor, which is now a writer’s retreat operated by the Benaki Museum.A premium magazine and online travel portal powered by Kathimerini.


Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: