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Roast lamb is an Easter staple, but these three recipes from Catherine Phipps’ offer an alternative take on the spring dish
Instant pots have become internet sensations in recent years – with certain recipes on TikTok amassing over 2.7 million views – so it’s easy to forget that the humble pressure cooker is far from new. Working on the premise of cooking food quickly by using pressure – in some instances cutting down the cooking time of dishes by up to 70% – the appliance actually dates back to the seventeenth century, becoming hugely popular in the 1970s when it was promoted as a healthy way to cook food quickly.
And, like so many things before it, the pressure cooker has had a twenty-first century glow up, now becoming very much an essential part of kitchen kit, especially if you have neither the time or inclination to slave over the hob after a long day at work.
Here to aid in the pressure-cooking renaissance is Catherine Phipps, with her new book Modern Pressure Cooking. Through her collection of 150 recipes, Catherine is aiming to showcase that pressure cookers should most definitely be part of your culinary life, allowing you to make convenient meals from scratch in very little time.
And what could be more fitting for the new season than lamb dishes? While many will enjoy a roasted leg on Easter Sunday, other cuts of the meat are seemingly less popular. So that’s why we’ve selected three lamb dishes from Modern Pressure Cooking – making use of lamb breast, shanks and mince – with all dishes easily coming together in a fraction of the time slow-cooked a leg of lamb would traditionally take.
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Banishing any thoughts that pressure cookers are just for winter is Catherine’s lamb breast salad. With the meat paired with a light mix of salad greens, cooked grains and a fresh lemon dressing, it’s well-suited for a warm spring evening.
And if it’s a one-pot wonder you’re looking for, Catherine’s keema biryani is sure to please, with the layers of garlic and ginger mingled with curry powder, turmeric and nigella seeds imparting wonderfully aromatic flavours into the lamb and rice.
Finally, giving us the traditional lamb accompaniments of rosemary, garlic and wine are Catherine’s lamb shanks with flageolet beans. Achieving slow-cooked perfection in under an hour, the shanks marry with the beans for an effortless weekend feast in no time at all.
Lamb breast salad
Catherine says: “This is an example of how the pressure cooker can make the most out of those trickier cuts of meat, without it necessarily having to be winter comfort food. Lamb breast is just about the cheapest cut of lamb you can get; it is very fatty, but has a really good flavour. I gave it a rolled ‘porchetta’-style treatment in my first pressure cooker book, but here I wanted something lighter and simpler. This recipe will also work well with lamb ribs. I’ve served it with what is essentially a gremolata with a grain stirred through it. This will work with any grain you have as long as it has a bit of bite – spelt or farro, buckwheat, freekeh, brown rice. Alternatively, instead of making this into a salad, simply serve the lamb breast and skimmed cooking liquor alongside any mash or gratin.”
For the lamb breast:
- 1 lamb breast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large sprig of rosemary leaves
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 pieces of pared lemon zest
- 100ml red wine
- 25ml red wine vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
- 150g cooked spelt, farro or buckwheat
- 100g spinach, rocket or watercress (or a combination)
- ½ red onion, finely chopped and soaked in salted water for 30 minutes
- Zest of 1 lemon or ½ orange, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch of mint leaves, chopped
For the dressing:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon or orange juice
- 1 tsp sherry vinegar
- A pinch of ground cinnamon
First cut the lamb breast into four large pieces – you should be able to just get them into your pressure cooker in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and sear the lamb breast, skinside down, until well browned. Remove and strain off any excess fat.
Add the rosemary leaves, garlic and lemon zest to the cooker, then pour in the red wine and red wine vinegar. Lay the lamb breast pieces on top, skin-side up, and close the lid. Bring up to high pressure and cook for 30 minutes.
Allow to drop pressure naturally. Remove the lamb breast from the pressure cooker, and, while still warm, cut up into strips or shred, discarding any large pieces of fat that have not rendered. Decant the cooking liquor into a small pot and wait for the fat to settle on top. Skim off the fat and reheat the liquor to serve with the lamb as a gravy or reserve to use as a well-flavoured stock in other dishes.
If turning into a salad, whisk the salad dressing ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan and crisp up the lamb breast a little, then toss with all the remaining salad ingredients and dressing.
Catherine says: “Keema peas is a firm favourite in our house, but sometimes I want to make this recipe as it is completely one-pot. If you want to make this without the rice, you can, just omit and reduce the water to 250ml. You can serve with flatbreads, or rice. You can also add the rice later. A very quick meal is to put 100g rice and 150ml water in your pressure cooker, add a frozen block of keema peas or any other block of minced meat, lentils, chilli or curry. Bring up to high pressure and cook for 3 minutes as normal, natural release. You will find that the block of frozen keema will be sitting on top of the rice, still in its block but fully defrosted – all you have to do is stir it in.”
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, grated or crushed
- 25g piece ginger, grated
- 4 tbsp coriander stems, finely chopped
- 400g minced lamb
- 1 tbsp mild curry powder
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- 50g brown lentils
- 300g peas
- 100g basmati rice, well rinsed
- 100g canned chopped tomatoes
For the raita:
- 200ml yogurt
- 1 tsp dried mint
- A handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
- A squeeze of lemon juice
To serve (optional):
- A few coriander leaves
- A few green chillies, finely sliced
- A few lemon wedges
Heat the coconut oil in your pressure cooker and add the onion, garlic, ginger, coriander and lamb. Stir on a high heat until the meat has lightly browned, then sprinkle in the spices. Stir to combine.
Stir in the lentils, peas and rice, then pour over the tomatoes and 400ml water. Make sure the rice sits below the water, pressing down with the back of a spoon if necessary. Close the lid and bring up to high pressure. Reduce the heat to maintain high pressure, then cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to drop pressure naturally.
Stir thoroughly to make sure everything is well combined. Mix together all the raita ingredients. Serve garnished with coriander leaves, green chillies and some raita and lemon wedges on the side.
A wonderful alternative grain to make this with is bulgar wheat. Change the spicing – use ras el hanout, or baharat or harissa paste (or a simple combination of cinnamon, cardamom and cayenne pepper is good), then replace the rice with the same quantity of bulgar wheat. You might also want to replace the garnish with mint or parsley. Use the ratios and timings below:
Barley (pearled) – 1:2/18 minutes
Buckwheat groats – 1:1/3 minutes
Bulgar wheat – 1:2/1 minute al dente; 2 minutes softer
Farro – 1:2.5/10 minutes
Freekeh – 1:2/10 minutes
Giant couscous – 1:2.5/1 minute
Millet – 1:3/1 minute
Quinoa – 1:2/1 minute
Spelt – 1:3/12 minutes
Lamb shanks with flageolet beans
Catherine says: “There are several different cuts of lamb you could use for this dish, but the reason I chose lamb shanks is that they are reasonably lean. This means that they will not give out a huge amount of fat, compared with, say, neck fillet or diced shoulder. This is important in this dish as the beans make it hard to skim the fat. If you have made a large batch of sofrito for the freezer, you could use a portion of it for this recipe in place of the onion, carrot and celery.”
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large or 4 small lamb shanks
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 1 celery stick, finely diced
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 sprigs of parsley
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 piece of pared lemon zest
- 200ml red or white wine
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped or puréed
- 250g dried unsoaked flageolet beans
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half
- 500ml lamb, chicken or
- vegetable stock or water
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in your pressure cooker and add the lamb shanks. Brown on all sides, then remove from the pressure cooker. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté on a medium–high heat for a few minutes, stirring to lift up any brown residue left from the lamb. When the vegetables look as though they are starting to brown around the edges, add the herbs and lemon zest to the cooker, then pour over the wine. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble for a minute.
Stir in the tomatoes, then return the lamb shanks to the cooker. Pour the beans around the lamb and tuck in the head of garlic. Add the stock or water and season with salt and pepper.
Close the lid and bring up to high pressure. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to drop pressure naturally. Remove the shanks from the pressure cooker and – if using two large rather than four small – break up the meat into large chunks. Return to the pressure cooker and heat through. Serve with a generous side of greens.
Ham Hock with White Beans
A ham hock – or a small joint of gammon – will work very well in this recipe with a little adjustment. First, check if it needs soaking. You can do a quick soak in the pressure cooker by covering with cold water, bringing up to high pressure and immediately fast releasing. Discard the water, rinse the ham and the inside of the cooker free of any starch that may have coated them and proceed as above, replacing the flageolet with white beans.
Modern Pressure Cooking by Catherine Phipps (Quadrille, £26) is out now
Photography: ©Andrew Hayes Watkins