Bold North African flavors sing in this substantial lamb dish... North African Instant Pot Lamb Shanks has slow-cooked tenderness and flavor with the aid of your Instant Pot/pressure cooker! Serve with simple or adorned couscous, freekeh, quinoa, or brown rice...
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. With the aid of my stove top pressure cooker, I had this delicious North African inspired lamb recipe on the table in about 60 minutes!
Are Pressure Cookers Safe?
This much-maligned appliance may evoke images of mushy, over-cooked food, and explosive disasters in the kitchen.
Advances in design 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! 🙂
NOTE: This post was published in January 2015 - before the Instant Pot craze! 😂 Fast forward to 2019 as I update this tender lamb shank recipe... I would venture to guess a majority of serious home cooks now own an electric pressure cooker. I use both an Instant Pot and a stove top pressure cooker regularly.
Making Instant Pot Lamb Shanks
Top it with plain yogurt (or my Easy Moroccan Preserved Lemon Yogurt Sauce with Fresh Herbs), and serve with couscous, 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!
My favorite way to serve North African Pressure Cooker Lamb Shanks is with Moroccan Couscous with Chick Peas, Spinach, and Dried Fruit. I do this "recipe" a myriad of ways, but they all taste amazing with the lamb shanks! Do check out the recipe!
Instant Pot Lamb Shanks Cooking Steps
- Sear the lamb shanks.
- Sauté onion and garlic.
- Add spices.
- 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.
- Add lamb shanks back into the pot. If using an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker use the "manual" option to set for 50 minutes under high pressure.
- If using a stove top model, 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 50 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Allow pressure to remain for 10 minutes and then release.
- Leave the lid on the pot until you are ready to serve.
Pro Tips and FAQ
Preserved lemons are a key ingredient in North African cuisine. You can easily (and inexpensively) make preserved lemons at home. Serve alongside the lamb shanks, or even better, use them in Easy Moroccan Preserved Lemon Yogurt Sauce with Fresh Herbs. A dollop on top of the lamb shanks is heavenly!
Is harissa paste the same as harissa powder? No. Harissa powder is a ground spice mix with many of the same ingredients as harissa paste. I reserve it for a dry rub or salad dressing, while I prefer paste in simmered dishes like this one.
What can I serve with my Instant Pot North African Lamb Shanks? Simple couscous is an obvious choice. However, while the lamb cooks, you have plenty of time to make my Moroccan Couscous with Chick Peas, Spinach, and Dried Fruit.
If you're still dragging your feet on purchasing and using an Instant Pot/pressure cooker, I will continue to encourage you to take the plunge. You'll never look back...
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