April: Cabbages, Lamb and Pressure Cookers

The weather is slowly improving, but I have a backlog of cabbages. And swedes.

I am also working on a new book, and facing my fear, about pressure cookers. Recently I tried to cook a leg of lamb from the farm with the new gadget (an 8L pressure cooker from Kuhn Rikon). Pressure cookers need to make a comeback. They are a very energy efficient way of cooking, but using them requires some getting used to.

One of my favourite recipes for lamb is by Patricia Wells, her ‘Seven Hour Leg of Lamb’ from Bistro Cooking. However, that recipe dates from a time when cookers were also heat sources and keeping the oven on for that long no longer seems appropriate. What is so wonderful about her recipe is that: a) it is very easy and offers a meal in one pot and, b) the lamb comes out meltingly tender; you can more or less eat it with a spoon, and the sauce is extraordinary. I had this vision that a pressure cooker would do the same. Not quite.

That said, it did cook the leg perfectly well, if you like pink meat, in 20 minutes. Perhaps not as nice as roasted lamb but hopefully this can be improved upon. And, the broth, although watery and not as reduced as if simmered slowly for hours, served as a base for a delicious Cabbage and Swede soup, recipe below. Because the broth is very liquid, couscous makes a good accompaniment here. Leftover lamb was finely chopped with a food processor and turned into a stuffing for mushrooms and peppers from my box (see the Stuffed Onion and Stuffed Cabbage recipes) and, since the bone still had some meat on it, I made another batch of pressure cooker lamb stock. Three solid meals from one leg of lamb; I’m very pleased with this.

Pressure Cooker Leg of Lamb

Coarsely chop 1 onion, 2 carrots, 2 ribs of celery, some dried thyme. Brown in the bottom of an 8 L pressure cooker in oil; remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. Put a 1.3 kg leg of lamb in the pressure cooker and brown, turning occasionally to colour evenly; remove and set aside on another plate; season well with salt and pepper.

To the pressure cooker, add a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, half a bottle of white wine, a good handful of chopped parsley, 6 peeled and sliced garlic cloves and a bay leaf. Return the onion mixture to the cooker and stir to combine. Season well. Add the lamb and add enough water to cover almost completely.

Seal the pressure cooker lid and bring to pressure over high heat. At pressure, reduce the heat to low and pressure cook for 10 minutes (for pink meat); 15-20 minutes if you want it well done. Turn off the heat and let stand until the pressure subsides (using the pressure gauge as your guide); about 10 minutes. Leave 5-10 minutes longer if desired. Remove the lamb and carve to serve. Taste the broth for seasoning and adjust as required; serve with the lamb and use the rest for soup.

Cabbage and Swede Soup with Cumin and Paprika, in Lamb Broth

Although the weather is turning warmer, there have still been quite a few days chilly enough for soup. While preparing this, I noticed some finely ground roasted cumin seed left from the Stuffed Cabbages of a few weeks ago. Cumin and cabbage seem to be natural partners so in it went, with great success. If you make this without the pressure cooked stock above, add a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes and a good splash of wine as well when adding the ordinary stock.

1/2 white cabbage, chopped
1 swede, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot chopped
2-3 tbsp oil
Large handful coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika, or more to taste
1 tsp-ish roasted ground cumin seeds (see Stuffed Cabbage recipe)
Sea salt and black pepper
Lamb stock left from the pressure cooked lamb, including the bay leaf, about 1-1.3 litres

In a large pot, combine the cabbage, swede, onion, carrot and oil over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until softened and beginning to brown. Add the herbs and spices, stir well and cook for a few minutes more. Season lightly.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, 20-25 minutes. Taste for seasoning after about 10 minutes and adjust. Serve hot.

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