Lamb dishes are among my favorite, though I didn’t grow up with them. Lamb featured in my mother’s very short list of foods she found unpleasant to eat. My father likes lamb, so I was able to eat it occasionally, when she broiled lamp chops for the family and pork chops for herself (on a carefully divided broiler tray). Once in a blue moon she’d make a leg of lamb for my father and company, not because she like to eat it but because she delighted in cooking the perfect roast. Those were good dinners, and I particularly loved the flavor of the fat, cooked to crunch crispiness outside, and soft and melty inside. Since lamb in the States is pretty expensive relative to other meats, it was more a special occasion dish and not part of the regular rotation of meats through my kitchen.
In Berlin, living in a neighborhood where I couldn’t turn around without facing the doorway of another Turkish butcher shop, I rediscover lamb and goat, and started developing a repertoire of recipes. There, I had a Russian partner who had lived in Georgia, and he taught about the beauties of Plot and cooking with lamb fat. When I arrived in Switzerland, where all meat is priced like gold, I found lamb less expensive than beef. I also think it’s usually better tasting because the Swiss like their beef ultra-lean, with none of that nice marbling that gives it such good flavor. Now that I have a partner who doesn’t eat pork, my freezer is filled with lamb. A friend lives in farm country, and so she brings me half of a freshly butchered and packaged lamb several times a year, It’s also easy to find in stores.
This recipe isn’t made with fancy lamb—that’s the beauty of the pressure cooker. It’s made with cheap, fatty “Budge” packaged lamb from the Migros market, which is just perfect for a dish like this. This is perfect to spoon over rice, potatoes, or grains, which soak up the delightful fatty broth.
Pressure or Slow Cooker Lamb with Cabbage, Spinach & Root Vegetables
- 1 pressure cooker optional
- 2 kilos lamb (shanks, ribs, breast, or any other cheap, fatty cut). You can use expensive lamb but add more olive oil.
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion (roughly chopped)
- 1 head garlic (crushed to peel, then roughly chopped)
- 3 cups grated celery root (chopped celery stalks will do as well)
- 2 cups grated carrot
- 3 T balsamic vinegar mixed with ⅓ cup water (fruit vinegars also work well)
- 1 can crushed Italian tomatoes
- 1 cup frozen spinach (if using fresh, use 3 cups)
- 1 small head sliced cabbage
- broth (enough to cover the stew—lamb, beef, chicken, or vegetable)
- 4 fresh bay leaves (dry will do, but fresh is better)
- fresh rosemary
- fresh sage (optional)
- fresh oregano (optional)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- plain yogurt (for topping)
- Za'atar (to taste)
- Heat the olive oil on medium-low in your Instant Pot or slow cooker on the sauce setting (you can also do this on the stove). Let the lamb brown slowly in the olive oil to create a nice caramelized crust. As the lamp browns, remove it to a plate. Keep the temperature low and don't be in a hurry here because if you burn the lamb everything else will not taste good. If you've used fatty lamb, then there should be more fat in the pot now than when you started.
- Add the onions to the remaining fat and cook, keeping the heat low. You want to see them turn golden but they must not burn. When they turn gold, toss in the garlic and stir only until the garlic releases its flavor into the air. Then add the grated celery root (or chopped stalks) and carrot. Turn up the heat slightly (more if the veggies are very wet) and cook on medium until the root vegetables just start to soften.
- Pour in the balsamic vinegar and water and the can of crushed tomatoes and stir and scrape the bottom until the browned bits of lamb dissolve into the liquid and the bottom is clean (especially important for the pressure cooker, to avoid burning).
- Add the broth, frozen spinach, bay leaves, rosemary (and/or other leaf spices) and salt and pepper to taste. (If your broth is well-salted you probably don't need to add extra.) If you're using an Instant pot or other pressure cooker, I suggest pressure cooking the vegetables in broth for 10 minutes on high. If you're using a slow cooker you're a better judge of your machine than I am, but I wouldn't recommend more than 2 hours on a high setting. On an Instant Pot or similar pressure cooker, you can quick-release the pressure. In any case, wait until the pressure drops to a safe level before opening the pot.
- Add the lamb, boned or not, however you prefer. (I cut it into bite-sized pieces.) Set the pressure cooker for 12 minutes for tender lamb or for up to 30 minutes for tougher cuts. If you're using a slow cooker, just cook it until the lamb is tender enough for you.
- Serve in deep bowls with a dollop of good unsweetened yogurt on top and sprinkle with a little za'atar if you like.