So maligned are pressure-cookers that it seems almost sacrilegious of a food blog like this, that likes to extol the virtues of fresh ingredients and traditional cooking methods, to even consider adding a recipe that calls for using one. Undaunted, here we are flaunting convention and defying the culinary thought-police once more with a recipe for red wine and herb braised lamb shanks made in our brand spanking new pressure-cooker. Of course, this is but an exaggeration. We’re perfectly happy to try almost any food and any cooking method, and since we’d got given a pressure-cooker for a wedding present, and yesterday was the first autumnal feeling day of the year, we thought, why not give it a try?
Pressure-cookers got their bad name originally for two principal reason. Firstly, they were fundamentally quite dangerous contraptions that were liable to explode and inflict either physical injury by launching scalding lumps of food at those in the kitchen, or enduring damage to your kitchen decor, or both. And secondly, because they tended to stew food, boil out it’s goodness and turn everything to mush. However, advances in design and therefore safety mean that modern pressure-cookers are regaining popularity for their astounding ability to cook dishes that normally take several hours, within forty minutes, while preserving the food’s goodness.
We were first put on to the beauty and convenience of the pressure-cooker by the humble, and vastly underrated, Jacques Pepin. On more than one episode of Fast Food, My Way, Monsieur Pepin gets out his trusty pressure cooker and makes a delicious braised dish (beef, mushrooms and pearl onions, from memory) in about half an hour, while describing how he was inspired by his mother who used to use her pressure cooker on weekday evenings to create a hearty family meal in under an hour. Apparently, Maman Pepin would chop the vegetables and meat while still in her coat, and then slap the lid on the pressure-cooker, while she did various other household chores, and while we used our pressure-cooker for the first time last night (a Sunday) we can definitely see how using it on a weekday meal in the winter would work extremely well.
Here’s the recipe for the dish we made, but there are probably hundreds of different things you could make, all of them inside forty minutes. Next time, we’re going to make lamb rogan josh curry.
Wine-Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary and Thyme in the Pressure-Cooker
1 1/2 – 2lbs lamb shanks (probably 2 shanks)
1 spanish onion, roughly diced
3-6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly diced
1/2 lb mushrooms (whichever kind you like) quartered, halved or whole depending on size
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
7-10 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 bottle red wine (whatever you like drinking)
1pt chicken or vegetable stock
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp flour
fresh ground black pepper
1. add a couple of good pinches of salt and pepper to the flour in a bowl and dredge lamb shanks until lightly coated.
2. add half the oil to pressure cooker at medium-high heat and brown lamb until colored well on all sides. Remove and set aside.
3. reduce heat to medium and add onion, carrot and mushrooms to pot and remaining oil. sautee until onions go opaque and carrots soften a bit and get sugary. add garlic and sautee for three more minutes.
4. add herbs and the lamb shanks back to the pot. turn heat back to high and add wine and about 3/4 of the stock.
5. bring liquid to a boil then place lid on pressure cooker. keep heat turned to high until pressure monitor shows maximum pressure has been reached, then follow manufacturer’s directions for keeping pressure at the right level for the right amount of time. On our model, I turned the heat to medium, and cooked it for 35 minutes.
6. release pressure and stand back until steam clears.
7. season to taste before plating, but be careful! I burned the sh!t out of my mouth tasting the sauce
I served the lamb with a smoked provolone, cream and parsley polenta and wilted broccoli di rape, and it worked very well indeed. It’s worth noting that the whole thing tasted much better the following day, as is often the case with sauces – they improve until finally they go off.
Do any of you have good pressure-cooker recipes? And, if so, are you brave enough to come out and say that you too appreciate the noble pressure-cooker for what it is – a much-maligned invention of genius? Well, come on then, let’s have them!