Lamb Stew with Orzo, Olives and Butter Beans

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
Servings: 6-8
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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Add the butter bean and liquid, chopped olives and preserved lemon, stir to incorporate. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Pressure Cooker Country-style Pork Ribs with Red Wine and Tangerine

My husband isn’t big on following recipes. He uses them more as guidelines on what will work and then applies his knowledge of ingredients to make substitutions. The result is often delicious if unrepeatable. He came up with this dish one weekend and he’s been making some variation of it every few months ever since. I finally watched him make it, taking notes, to come up with a close approximation.

I’ve made this dish on a weeknight. After about 15 minutes of active time the rest is just letting the pressure cooker do it’s marvelous work unattended.

Pressure-cooker Country-style Pork Ribs with Red Wine and Tangerine
Servings: 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes


  • 2 lbs. country-style pork rib (bone-in if possible)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 bottle light-bodied red wine, such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir
  • 1 tangerine
  • 1 Tbsp. potato starch
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper


  1. Pat dry the pork ribs and sprinkle with salt and pepper on all sides.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in the base of the pressure cooker until shimmering. Add enough pork ribs to cover the bottom of the pan without crowding and sear for 3-5 minutes on each side. Work in batches if needed, transferring the browned meat to a plate while browning the second batch.
  3. Add the onions to the cooker along with a pinch of salt. Scrape up any fond that may have accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Add the red wine and return the pork to the pan.
  4. Remove the peel from the tangerine using a vegetable peeler, leaving behind as much white pith as possible. Add it to the pressure cooker. Halve the tangerine and juice 1 half of the orange into the pan (you’ll use the other half later).
  5. Clamp on the lid to your pressure cooker, bring to pressure and cook with a light release of steam for 20 minutes.
  6. Release the pressure and check the meat. It should be tender but not quite falling off the bone. If it’s ready transfer it to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. If not close the lid, rebuild pressure and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  7. When the meat is ready fish out the tangerine peel. Squeeze the remaining tangerine half into a small bowl and add the potato starch. Stir to combine and then add the slurry to the liquid in the pan. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil. Cook at a boil for 1 minute to allow the sauce to thicken. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust as desired, and serve.

We like this with egg noodles as the sauce coats the noodles well. Rice or mashed potatoes would work too.

You can use corn starch if you don’t have potato starch. I’d avoid flour unless you want to make a Beurre manié.

Pressure Cooker Split Pea Soup

When we enjoy baked ham I typically turn the bone over to my mom who turns it into tasty split pea soup. I figured I’d return the favor this time around, picked up a package of green split peas and followed the basic recipe on the back of the package. I omitted the “ham-flavor seasoning package” included with the dried peas in favor of actual ham.
[Split Pea Soup]
I added the ham in two phases, some while cooking and the bulk after cooking. The pressure cooker will draw every bit of flavor from the ham; the second addition ensures that some of the ham you eat will actually taste as it should.

Pressure Cooker Split Pea Soup
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes


  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 lg (or 2 sm) cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. dried green split peas, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 lbs. cooked ham, cut into 1/2″ pieces, divided
  • 8 cups water or ham stock
  • the bone from a baked ham (optional but so worth it)
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Special equipment:

  • pressure cooker


  1. Heat oil over medium-low heat in the pressure cooker. Add all the fresh veggies, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and stir to coat with oil. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the garlic, stir into the rest of the veggies and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the split peas, 1/2 lb. of ham and the water/stock. Stir once or twice two mix things up. Add the ham bone. Bring to a boil.
  4. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and lock. Bring up to pressure until steam is being released. Lower the heat to maintain pressure; a small hiss of steam should still escape the cooker.
  5. Cook for 20 minutes. Use the quick release to dump the pressure built up in the cooker.
  6. Use tongs to remove the bones from the pot. The bulk of the peas have probably settled on the bottom of the pot. Stir well until your spoon no longer brings up clumps of pea puree. Stir in the remaining ham and allow to sit for 10 minute.
  7. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired. I like mine with lots of freshly ground black pepper. A bit of olive oil would be nice too.

As an experiment I cooked the ham bone in 16 cups of water on low in my slower cooker for 9 hours while I was at work. It yielded a very weak stock. I used it to make the soup however I’ll probably just use water next time.

This soup will thicken while it sits. When I transferred the leftovers to a container it was basically a blob. Worry not; add a bit of water, reheat and it will be lovely soup again.

Apple Cider Braised Pork Belly

I found some nice looking pork belly at Silva’s Market this past weekend and then didn’t get a chance to do anything with it for a couple of days. We watched the Next Iron Chef on Monday night and Chef Tio made a pressure cooker braised pork belly which made me want to give it a try.

After a search of various online resources I had a general game plan. Sear the meat, add some aromatics & soften, add a liquid & seasoning, return the pork belly and cook for 20 minutes. I decided on apple cider as the braising liquid. The result was fairly tasty.

We had some leftover rice from arroz con pollo so I used that as a base for the pork belly. Ted suggested that I sear the cooked pork belly and in hindsight that would have been a good finishing touch. Fresh from the pot the pork belly was still had streaks of fat. Searing would have cut that down some more.

I didn’t do anything with the resulting liquid left from the pressure cooking process. I did taste it and it was good. I think next time I’ll strain out the solids and then reduce the liquid to make a glaze of sorts.

Any way here is the recipe.

Apple Cider Braised Pork Belly

2 lbs. pork belly
1 large onions, halved & sliced (1/4″ slice)
2 carrots, peeled & cut into largish pieces (2″ for the thin end/1″ for the thick)
1 lemon, halved
2 cups apple cider
1 star anise
1 2″ piece of cinnamon
3-4 cloves
1 tsp. celery seed
salt & pepper for seasoning
oil for searing

Slice the pork belly into 3″ x 1.5″ pieces. Season both sides with salt & pepper.

Heat your pressure cooker over high heat and coat the bottom with oil. Sear both sides of the pork belly until browned. Work in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pot. Set seared pieces aside as they finish searing.

Remove most of the oil from the pan, leaving about 1 Tbsp. Lower heat to medium. Add the onions & carrot. Stir to coat with oil and saute for 5-10 minutes until slightly softened.

Squeeze the lemons into the pot and toss the lemon pieces into the pot for good measure. Scrape the bottom of the pot to release any tasty bits left from the searing. Add the cider and spices and mix to combine.

Return the pork belly to the pot. Raise heat to high and let it come to a boil. Put the cover onto the pressure cooker and lock it in place.

When the pressure cooker starts to release steam lower the heat so you get a slow & steady release. Start the timer for 20 minutes at this point.

After 20 minutes remove from the heat and allow the pot to cool until pressure is released.