Man, it feels good to post again!
This one is about a simple and lovely dish called fårikål, or "lamb in cabbage," which is Norway’s delicious and uncontrived national dish. First and foremost, I love this dish because it is so simple. As the name implies, it is literally just lamb and cabbage. But don’t let its simplicity belie its flavour. The end result of a good hour or two of gentle simmering, combined with the right selection of mature, autumn lamb, is a balance of flavours akin to a culinary magic trick.
An autumn meal
This here is an autumn meal. Once, I suggested making fårikål in the summer using the young spring lamb that is available year-round in grocery stores. I was met with admonition. “You absolutely cannot eat fårikål in the summer. You must eat it in autumn,” said one Norwegian, tersely. And that was that. Obediently, I waited for the leaves to turn colour before I could test out this dish for myself.
There’s something about the start of autumn that is irresistible. You may be the biggest lover of summertime around, but that first morning when you step outside and notice your breath in the air, I bet you a smile will appear on your lips. And so when I noticed autumn’s first signs - colourful leaves on my usual running trails, frozen hands on my bike ride home for the climbing gym - I decided the time had finally come. Time to make fårikål!
It’s best to make this recipe with cuts of lamb typically used for braising. That includes shoulder, neck, and shank (leg portion below knee). They are called braising cuts because they are typically braised - that is, cooked for extended periods of time half-submerged in a pot of water or stock - in order to transform an otherwise tough cut of meat into something exceptionally tender.
Serves 4 generously
1200 g braising cuts of mutton
1200 g green cabbage, cut into quarters or about the same size at the meat cuts
30-40 whole black peppercorns
Partridgeberry jam, to serve
Potatoes, boiled, to serve
Arrange the meat and cabbage in a large pot. Add the peppercorns, a good pinch of salt, and enough water to almost cover. If you’re unsure, lean towards more water. Put the pot over a medium heat and bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer. Keep a watchful eye so it doesn’t boil too hard.
Simmer for approximately two hours, or until the meat is tender. Add salt to taste. While it’s simmering, turn the pot once in a while to help keep the ingredients from sticking to the bottom. Resist the urge to mix the pot’s contents - the idea is to keep the tender meat and cabbage whole.
Serve piping hot with boiled potatoes and partridgeberry jam. This is what the Norwegians do, and hey, it’s their national dish after all. (A proper ale on the side doesn’t go astray, either.)
I'm Erik, the Burnt Chef. I'm a Finnish-born Newfoundlander living in Norway. I have a passion for cooking and a deep fascination for the culinary history of the North. Simplicity guides my cooking. Time, place, and history guide my storytelling. This is my personal blog about food.