Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preserved Lemon and Saffron

What would winter be without snow?  (The Bahamas, that’s what.)  Winter with snow is what made Currier and Ives famous, what gives New Englanders character, and what causes some people to regard year-round Maine residents as a bit dotty.  I, for one, was happy to see the snow a couple of weeks ago.  I want at least one weekend when walking down the sidewalk in front of my house resembles McMurdo Station, when everyone exercises the exquisite protocols that dictate who first steps aside, and who passes.  This week’s recipe is what all of us hope to find when we come inside from shoveling,  a dish that fills the air with aromas as good as a back rub,  Lamb Stew with Chick Peas, Preserved Lemon and Saffron.

Did I mention this is done in a pressure cooker?*  It’s not hard without a pressure cooker, just longer.  This stew includes preserved lemons, one of Morocco’s great culinary gifts to the rest of us.  If you’d like to make your own–we switch between making our own and picking up a container of them at Whole Foods–then our friend and fellow food blogger Sally Vargas’s recipe for them is quite good.  Or, if you actually need an excuse, let the desire for DIY preserved lemons be your rationale for picking up a copy of Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Like all stews, this is even better the next day, especially if you’re snowed in.  Enjoy.  Ken

*The history of pressure cookers can be found in Chicken Curry with Carrots and Ginger.

Pressure Cooker Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preservred Lemon and Saffron-2

Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preserved Lemon and Saffron

Serves 4, with leftovers


  • 1½ pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  •  3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 9-10 ounces ounces turnips, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 9-10 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
  • ½ pound lamb sausage, preferably merguez, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 generous pinch saffron
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup pitted green olives
  • 1 preserved lemon, cut into ¼-inch dice (chop the pith roughly)
  • 4 dates, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves


If not using a pressure cooker, follow the recipe up through Step 4, using a Dutch oven or heavy deep-sided pot with a lid.  In Step 5, omit the trivet, stir in the saffron, add the cinnamon stick, and then return the meat vegetables and sausage to the pot in layers as described.  The stock should come to the top  of the  meat.  Cover with a circle of parchment and then a lid.  Cook over the lowest heat until the meat is very tender, 2½ to 3 hours.  Check the stock level every hour or so, adding more as needed (include an extra cup of stock in the ingredients for adding later).  When the meat is tender, pick up the recipe in Step 6, adding the rest of the ingredients, etc.

  1. Season the lamb with salt, pepper and the paprika.  Toss with the flour.  Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the pressure cooker over medium-high heat.  Add the vegetables and cook until lightly browned.  This will take about 15 minutes.  The depth of the pot means that the vegetables will steam a bit.   Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a plate. 
  3. Add the remaining oil to the pan and add half the meat.  Sear on 2 sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate.  Repeat with the remaining lamb and the sausage.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the wine and chicken stock.
  5. Put the trivet into the bottom of the pressure cooker. Stir in the saffron and add the cinnamon stick. Return the meat to the pot in an initial layer, then put the sausage on top, and finally add the vegetables.  Cover and bring up to high pressure.  Cook 10 minutes.  Allow the steam to release naturally.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and cook on low 3-4 minutes to heat through. Serve with couscous and harissa.

Pressure Cooker Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preservred Lemon and Saffron-3

Pressure Cooker Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preservred Lemon and Saffron-4

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Jody Notes:  

My mother didn’t pull any punches about our last month of posts: “Jody dear, I have to tell you, recently The Garum Factory has left me cold.”  I could appreciate that she might not want to prepare a full Blue Zone Casado, but wasn’t she interested in the sweet potato wontons?   “Nope.”  

She’s in her early 80’s, has her own healthy lifestyle, and isn’t about to start fooling around with taro or cashew sauce.  She exercises every morning–her version of calisthenics and stretching followed by a walk to get the paper.   She has a garden,  and works on it in the warm weather.  She lives in the house we grew up in, which means she climbs a steep set of stairs multiple times a day.  She eats 3 balanced meals with lots of fruits and vegetables and enjoys a glass of wine.  Her neighborhood is chock full of friends, young and old; and her a social schedule puts mine to shame.  She’s sharp as a tack, troubles to inform herself about current affairs and has a jolly sense of humor.  She’s already living in her own personal Blue Zone and doesn’t need the Garum Factory messing with it.     

She does love lamb, but probably won’t make this stew since the flavoring is  a little exotic (she’s not quite as adventurous a cook as she was 30 years ago).  Anyway, she lost track of her pressure cooker around the first Reagan presidency.    

But we’re hoping that if we  lost some of you in the Blue Zones, this stew will bring you back.  It’s so yummy, and with a pressure cooker, so simple.  Sweet, sour, briny, spicy flavors wrap around my favorite meat, lamb.  Be sure to add the pith of the preserved lemon along with the chopped rind–it adds an enormous amount of flavor.  

The vegetables are soft in this dish.  It’s the nature of the beast.  If that’s really a problem for you,  prepare the stew the traditional way in a Dutch oven, adding the vegetables part way through the cooking.  If you interrupt the cooking of the lamb in the pressure cooker,  you run the risk of messing with the texture of the meat.   

Pressure Cooker Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preservred Lemon and Saffron-13

Go ahead; click on something to see it with a little more detail.  Left and right arrow keys will move you through the photos.

58 thoughts

  1. “A dish that fills the air with aromas as good as a back rub” (!?).

    Good Lord Ken! Whose back are you rubbing?

    Don’t get me wrong. It all sounds delish, but I did stumble over that bit! ;-)

    Love to you and yer woman,


    Patrick R. Ramage (Thoughtfully but hastily typed on his iPhone 5. Apologies!)

  2. I’m a little like you mother in that I don’t know what has happened to my pressure cooker but I will be making your wonderful stew. Oh yes…we have more snow over the weekend so you stew is perfect.

  3. This is my kind of food for sure. I adore preserved lemons (will try Sally’s recipe) and with lamb in a Moroccan stew….perfect. It’s started snowing outside and is freezing So this dish is perfect. Love the plate and cutlery btw ;o) best Torie

  4. Keep this up and you just may convince this vegetarian to jump back on the meat train. I make a Moroccan Chickpea Stew – I made add a few elements from this, particularly the preserved lemons. And I think I’ll try my hand at making them myself!

  5. Though we’ve had a very mild winter here in Seattle, I awoke to rain, blustery winds and this recipe. Looking forward to warming up with it and glad to trot out the pressure cooker once again. I enjoyed the blue zone recipes (though I have yet to make any of them and am still on the lookout for bitter melon). What’s interesting about your blog is it gives interesting snapshots of the way people have eaten over time and around the world. I appreciate that perspective, as it helps sift away “food fads” and focus on the tried and true.

    • Our take-aways from the series–things that we’ll revist again and again will be bitter melon (really delicious and interesting stir-fry ingredient), taro (great alternative to potatoes) and wontons (easy and delicious). Thanks for the comments about the Blue Zone material. We discovered it cut both ways with our readers. Ken

  6. Jody’s mum sounds like a peach! And this recipe sounds heavenly — and authentic. I’m immediately transported the kitchen of Fatima, my French-Moroccan host mother, who often used her pressure cooker to make something very similar to your stew. I love the way the veg gets so soft.

    • Hi, Valerie–You have one of the most interesting culinary backgrounds of anyone I know. I don’t think I’ve written about an obscure ingredient yet that hasn’t been part of your culinary upbringing. I too love the way the vegetables get soft. I could eat an entire batch of carrots cooked this way. Ken

  7. You two have just got to stop. The picture of the stew with those glistening sausages about sent me over the top. And . . . it’s snowing here today. Nothing much, but hey! That’s is all the reason I need to cook. Thanks, Ann

    • Hi, Ann–nice to hear from you. Ah, merguez, how do I love thee–let me count the ways. They’re a great addition to the flavor and texture. We were gratified on the ride in from the airport last night to hear that snowfall predictions for Boston has been modified for 10 – 16 to 3 – 6, much more manageable. Ken

  8. The olives and chick peas make this is a fantastic looking stew, Ken. I may not have a pressure cooker but I do have some Meyer lemons curing in my basement. If I find the lamb sausage, I’m in! Thanks fo sharing another great recipe.

    • Hi, John–Didn’t you once mention that you had some prosciutto curing down there too? If so, you must have one helluva a basement! The stew is, of course, completely doable the long way. Thanks. Ken

  9. We used to sell Meyer lemons at the plant nursery where I worked, and a customer told us she preserved them for just this type of dish. It looks wonderful even for us in Savannah!

    • You know, making PLs with Meyer lemons has been in the back of my mind for awhile, but I haven’t tried it yet. I love MLs in lemon curd, but I’ve sometimes found that using them in savory food they can be a bit too perfumed. Nevertheless, definitely worth a try. Ken

  10. This is one of my favorite things I’ve cooked in a while. Made it the long way, such delicious, complex flavors. Served it for friends last night with a couple of well-aged Riojas. We were all super happy at the end of the night!

  11. It was too slushy to snowshoe this weekend so I made this FABULOUS stew and invited some friends over. I put in some rutabaga and parsnip for good measure, as they were on hand. They all plotzed (a good thing). Thank you both!

    • Nothing worse than rutabagas and parsnips that refuse to plotz on demands. I bet your stew was amazing. Also, this really is an effective way to make rutabagas palatable. Thanks for commenting. Ken

  12. Definitely a winter meal in that pot. I didn’t see this post until this morning, but based on my post today, I’d say our blogs are psychically linked when it comes to chickpeas!

  13. Made this last night in my Dutch oven. Was incredible! Eating right now again for lunch. So fragrant, tender— insanely good. I’m not typical a “hearty stew” kind of person, so the elegant flavors in this are what sold me. Used Israeli couscous because I’m not a fan of the little fluffy stuff. Thank you!! It’s a winner.

    • Hi, D’lynne–Saffron and preserved lemons are an unmistakable combination; add a little cinnamons and you might as well be in Morocco. Glad we dragged you over to the “hearty stew” side of the line, if only for a night. Ken

  14. Where do I begin? This stew is a stunning one and perfect for a snowy day (I grew up in the Boston area and miss the winters). I just finished preserving my first batch of lemons and this is a lovely dish to begin using them in. And I adore Claudia Roden…no excuses needed to pick up any of her books. Thank you for sharing this recipe and your beautiful photos!

    • I love that Claudia Roden has so many fans. She’s really a treasure. She has a recipe for preserving/pickling baby eggplants that I keep telling myself I’ll get around to one of these days. Preserved lemons are a staple in our house. We chop them up and use them on salad, add them as a tiny dice garnish in soup, chopped again as part of a relish for grilled lamb, and – one of my favorites – use them in risotto with shrimp. I’m happy the stew brought back memories of Beantown. Ken

  15. My mum has a pressure cooker, despite their virtues, I don’t, but your delightful dish will do well slow cooked in the oven. Great flavour combinations, including preserved lemons. I am currently experimenting with different recipes for these, and this is an ideal recipe for them. Thanks, Tracey

    • I think pressure cookers used to be standard issue to moms – have a child, get a pressure cooker. Having strolled through your blog, I would think that preserved lemons would be an appealing bright spot in a sometimes austere local culinary environment. Check out my response to Hannah (above) to see how we use them. Good luck with the stew – as you can see from the comments, lots of people are making it the slow way. Ken

  16. Just have to tell you that I’ll be shouting out praises for this recipe in the next Slice of Mid-Life (which will probably be up on Saturday morning). We’re about to dive in. I can already tell it will be sensational. Keep up the pressure (cooker recipes)!

    • Hi, Alison–Bon appetit! As one who’s eaten a couple of versions of the lamb, I can vouch that leftovers are possibly even better than the original, especially if you sprinkle of bit of freshly diced preserved lemon on top. More PC recipes on the way. ken

  17. Pingback: Algorithms, Measurable Outcomes and the Value of a Reliable Recipe | Slice of Mid-Life

  18. “…a dish that fills the air with aromas as good as a back rub”. Great simile Ken.

    I’m always on the hunt for great stews to warm us during the cold Canadian winter and this one sounds amazing. I don’t have a pressure cooker but can certainly make it the new old-fashioned way :-)


    • Laura! How are you? I thought you’d been swallowed in the Canadian snows. I met Lorna Sass, America’s PC maven, on a science/food trip to Greece many years ago. According to her, Americans are out of step with much of the rest of the world–Europe and much of Asia sees the pressure cooker as a kitchen essential. Nevertheless, I think you’ll enjoy the stew just as much the traditional way. :-) Ken

      • I’ve been on a blogging break (not by choice) but hope to be back in full swing soon :-)

        Between your PC series and the recipes from Laura Pazzaglia (an Italian Chef I’ve been following on Google+ who uses the pressure cooker for everything – even limoncello cheesecake) I’m starting to feel like I’m missing out by not having one. It may be time to take the plunge.

  19. Looks utterly deletable! I am now reading Julia Child’s, “My Life in France.” Jim always talks about his mother’s pressure cooker, so I read him Julia’s statements on pressure cookers, which were quite funny and very adamant. She is a delight and the book is wonderful, even though she is quite adamant. It’s the French way or the highway! I like to mix it up, and I know you do too. Good to see creative use of the pressure cooker. I’ll have to see if I can find Jim’s mom’s…… ;)

    • I assume you meant “delectable,” not “deletable.” :-) This is an easy recipe, either way. What you save is time. Given my druthers, I always prefer the long way, but if the difference in flavor is minimal–and there’s not enough time for the long way–I’ll go with the pressure cooker. We ALWAYS use the pressure for brown rice, wheat berries and beets, and if there’s an interesting collection of leftover in the fridge that I think might make a nice contribution to risotto, then that’s alright too. Ken

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