The general structure for this dish comes from one in Modern Mediterranean Cooking by Elen Balashova. Her recipe suggested this dish could be completed on the cook top in around an hour by just simmering the lamb shanks. Having cooked lamb shanks before I just didn’t see that happening. So I turned to the pressure cooker to speed up the process. I also added red bell pepper for some color, Serrano pepper for a bit of heat and preserved lemon for a deeper flavor. A finish with fresh lemon juice helps awaken the broth.
Lamb Stew with Orzo, Olives and Butter Beans
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes
- 1 Tbsp. peanut oil
- 2 lamb shanks (about 4 lbs. total)
- 1 onion, 1/4″ dice
- 1 red bell pepper, 1/4″ dice
- 2 serrano peppers, diced fine
- 2 cloves garlic, diced fine or pressed
- 8 cups water, divided
- 4 springs fresh oregano
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 4 oz. orzo pasta
- 1 14.5 oz. can butter beans (undrained)
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives, roughly chopped
- 1/2 preserved lemon, pith removed, rinsed and finely diced
- juice from 1 lemon
- kosher salt and black pepper
- Heat oil over medium heat in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Sprinkle lamb shanks with salt and pepper then brown in the oil, 3-4 each side. Set aside the shanks and drain the fat. Return 1 tablespoon of fat to the pot.
- Add the onions and peppers. Scrape to release and fond created by browning the shanks. Cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste and oregano, stir into the other vegetables and cook until aromatic (about 1 minutes). Add the water and bring to a simmer.
- Add the shanks to the pot along with 4 cups of water. Slap on the cover, lock it in place and heat to a steady release of steam is achieved. Cook for 35-40 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to have a low and steady steam release.
- Turn off the heat, remove the pressure cooker from the burner and perform a quick release on the steam. Remove the cover and check the meat. It should be falling off the bones. If not give a little pull with tongs; if it comes off easily then your good to go. If not recover, return to pressure and cook another 5-10 minutes.
- When you meat is done remove to it a dish, add the remaining water plus a tablespoon of salt and bring it to a boil. When the broth is boiling add the orzo and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the butter bean and liquid, chopped olives and preserved lemon, stir to incorporate. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- While the dish finishes cooking pull the meat from the lamb bones and shredded into bite size pieces. You can return these to the pot at any point.
- Add the lemon juice, stir to incorporate and taste for salt/pepper. Adjust as needed and serve.
If you don’t finish this in the first serving the orzo will likely take over. Don’t worry about it. You can add a bit of water when reheating to thin out the leftovers.
Don’t have preserved lemon, don’t worry about it. You could zest your lemon and add that at the end along with the juice to add a bit more lemony flavor. Or leave it out.