I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure.
— Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Take risks in the kitchen? I emphatically say “yes!” You might say Benjamin Franklin’s statement “nothing ventured, nothing gained” applies in the kitchen. After enjoying a beer with our “kids” at our local craft brewery last Saturday, I realized at 6:30 p.m. that I really needed to work on a recipe for the blog to maintain my self-imposed at-least-once-per-week publishing schedule. This is tough over the holidays. A couple of weeks earlier, I had prepared lamb shanks with harissa sauce, and jotted down a few notes to refer back to as they were positively delicious. I’d say it’s a bit risky to attempt a braised lamb dish at that late an hour! We stopped by Toucan Market on the way home for the lamb shanks, and I started dinner at 7:30.
Lamb shanks require braising and hours in the oven to become tender. At 7:30, I didn’t have hours. My only option at that late hour was my trusty pressure cooker. This much-maligned appliance may evoke images of mushy, over-cooked food, and explosive disasters in the kitchen. Advances in design, however, mean modern pressure cookers no longer pose a safety hazard when used correctly, and yield tender, succulent results in a fraction of the time required in the oven. Don’t be afraid to take risks in your kitchens; give the pressure cooker a try! 🙂
Pressure-Cooker Braised Lamb Shanks & Couscous draws from a North African flavor profile – harissa, cumin, allspice, paprika, mint, lemon… The flavors are bold, and the dish is substantial. Serve with a simple salad of leafy greens, cucumber, tomato, and a lemon juice and olive oil dressing. It pairs well with a full-bodied fruity, spicy red wine. C’est magnifique!
Bold North African flavors sing in this substantial lamb and couscous dish prepared in an hour using a pressure cooker...
20 minPrep Time
40 minCook Time
1 hrTotal Time
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 lamb shanks (typically 16 to 24 ounces each)
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 tsp. garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika (I like hot)
- 1 cup broth or stock (chicken or beef)
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. harissa
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 tsp. sea salt and several grinds black pepper
- yogurt and fresh mint to garnish
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 tsp. garlic, minced
- 1 bunch rainbow chard, stems chopped and leaves coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika (I like hot)
- 1 1/4 cups chicken broth or stock
- 1 can chick peas (garbanzos)
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt (more or less to taste) and several grinds of pepper
- 1 cup couscous
Add olive oil to pressure-cooker over high heat. Sear lamb shanks on all sides; reduce heat to medium-high if necessary. Set seared lamb shanks aside.
Add onion and garlic to the pressure-cooker. Saute until onions are transparent. Do not burn the garlic!
Add cumin, allspice, and paprika to the pot. Stir for 1 minute - until spices are fragrant.
De-glaze the pot with broth or stock. Stir to remove browned bits. Add diced tomatoes, harissa, and the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Give it all a good stir, than add the lamb shanks back into the pot. Spoon some of the sauce over the top. Bring liquid to a boil.
According to your pressure-cooker's instructions, lock the lid , turn the dial to high pressure, and the stove to high heat.
When the pot is pressurized, the pressure button will pop out. Turn heat to medium low, just high enough to keep that pressure button up. You want to keep the cooker at constant high pressure for 40 minutes. Turn off the heat, and release the pressure slowly according to manufacturer's instructions.
Leave the lid on the pot until you are ready to serve.
Over medium heat in a large sauce pan, saute the shallot, garlic, and chopped chard stems until they are fragrant. Add coarsely chopped chard leaves, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika. Stir to combine.
Add broth or stock, chick peas, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Add couscous, stir well to combine, turn off the heat, and cover the pan.
Just prior to serving, fluff the couscous with a fork.
Serve the lamb and sauce over the couscous. Garnish with plain Greek yogurt, and chopped cilantro, mint, and/or parsley.*
* I love mint with lamb, but cilantro and parsley work as well. I love the combination of mint and cilantro. br]
I use a stove top pressure cooker on a gas range with a high BTU burner. I bring the cooker to high pressure, then lower the heat to maintain it at that pressure (as indicated by the pop-up button on the lid).
Serving size is a bit ambiguous with this recipe. A typical lamb shank weighs over a pound, and the bone is pretty small. If you are willing to remove the meat from the bone and combine it with the braising sauce, you can easily stretch this dish to feed 4. On the other hand, if you wish to plate the dish as shown in the photo, you will feed one person per shank. It is too much food for me, but reheats well for lunch the next day.
Due to the nature of this dish and serving sizes, it is impossible to provide macro nutrient information. This would probably not qualify as a lean, low fat dish because of the lamb. However, eating lamb occasionally should not be a problem if you're eating lean and low fat the majority of the time.
If you wish to adapt this recipe to the oven, you will need to braise the lamb shanks 2 1/2 to 3 hours to make them tender.
If you are more comfortable with a slow-cooker, sear the lamb shanks, add to the slow-cooker pot, make the sauce, pour over the shanks, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
I make my own [harissa , and keep it in my refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. There are commercially prepared brands available, but you may have a hard time finding it in small towns and typical markets.