Harissa Lamb & Chickpea Stew
It’s December and all I want are soups and stews. Things that are hearty, warm, and maybe a little spicy. Lamb is one my family’s favorite indulgences and after a hectic week, I love treating myself to a great lamb dish. While I’ll always be partial to a great Indian lamb curry, the Middle East has also perfected lamb. It can be gamey to some palates and has a strong meat flavor that’s very in your face. Lamb is also rich and a little bit of fat in the cut of meat adds a ton of flavor. So, when you’re dealing with anything strong and fatty, it makes sense to cook it with similarly bold spices and with some acid to cut down the richness.
This dish relies on spices like harissa, cinnamon and ras el hanout to match the lamb’s boldness and on tomatoes and lemon to balance the richness. Ras el hanout is a Moroccan/North African spice mix, with warm spices like cumin, coriander, star anise, cloves, black pepper and more. Ras el hanout is warm and floral. You can find it at specialty stores or online; I’ve also seen it in my neighborhood grocery store’s “International” aisle. If you’re really having trouble finding this mix, you can use a 2:1 ratio of ground coriander and ground cumin to achieve a similar effect.
Chickpeas felt like a natural addition to this lamb stew and I always toss in a bunch of mixed greens at the end to make sure we’re getting our vegetables. Since we’re cooking the meat in a pressure cooker, a cheaper cut like shoulder is perfectly fine and in fact, leaving the bones in when cooking will add extra flavor. I opted to keep the chops whole because a) I was too lazy to cut around the bone, b) it looks very dramatic and cool, and c) I like larger chunks of meat in my stew. But you do what you need to and live your best life.
Lastly, I’ve used a regular pressure cooker here. I don’t own an Instapot but I think it should translate; if you’re an Instapot person, let me know what you discover. If you do not own either, you can cook this old school and stick everything is a 350 F oven for 1.5-2 hours to slow cook the meat.
2 lamb shoulder chops
1 can chickpeas
4 cups mixed greens
1 can diced, fire roasted tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes on the vine, chopped
1 tbsp harissa paste (sub with 2 serrano peppers, if not available)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp ras el hanout (sub with 2 tsp ground coriander and 1 tsp ground cumin, if not available)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 large white onion, sliced thinlly
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups water
Salt to taste
Diced preserved lemon or pickled red onions (optional)
¼ cup Greek yogurt with diced mint leaves and salt (optional)
Place the lamb in a pressure cooker or Instapot and turn on the heat to medium-high. Sear on each side for 8-10 mins on each side. Lamb shoulder has enough fat and you will not need any oil – the fat will render from the shoulder chops and brown the meat. Remove the chops onto a dish and set aside.
In the same pot, lower the heat to medium and add the olive oil. Once heated, add the sliced onion and a pinch of salt and brown, about 10 mins. Next, add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute; be careful not to burn the garlic. If needed, add a splash of water to de-glaze the pot.
Next, add the tomato paste and the harissa paste. Cook for 3-4 mins. Then add the ras el hanout and cinnamon and cook for another 1 min; be careful not to burn the ground spices and if the mixture is sticking to the pan, add another splash of water during this process.
Add the canned tomatoes (or fresh, if using) and cook for 8-10 mins. I took and immersion blender and blended the canned tomatoes before adding them to the pot; I prefer a smoother texture, so this step is optional.
Now add in the seared lamb shoulders, a can of drained chick peas, salt to taste, and 2 cups of water. Put the lid on and cook in the pressure cooker for 40 mins. Release the steam and remove the lid. Finally, add in the greens and the lemon juice. Add more salt if needed.
Before serving, break up the pieces of meat a bit and discard the bones, if preferred. Top with chopped preserved lemons, pickled onions, or a Greek yogurt and mint leaf topping!