Summer is quickly fading as the first signs of autumn begin to take hold. Yellow patches of leaves are beginning to replace what once were branches of lush-green foliage. The mornings and evenings are cooler, and there’s that distinct autumn scent in the air. It’s hard to believe summer is soon over, yet September is most welcome as it ushers in the harvest season. And, in Norway, the season begins with lamb.
Fårikål is Norway’s national dish of layered lamb and cabbage. Its simplicity is its charm, with only some salt and a few whole black peppercorns adorning the meat and cabbage to bring out the flavor as it slowly cooks. It’s served throughout the month with the last Thursday of September deemed as fårikålens dag (day).
As the drier months of summer are behind us, I like to take the kitchen outdoors and cook over the open fire as much as possible, embracing the nature where the ingredients are sourced from. I couldn’t think of a better dish to start with than fårikål – lamb from the mountains and cabbage from the fields.
While the meat and cabbage are traditionally added to the pot without searing, I wanted to utilize the flames by charring both to bring out more flavor before layering them in a large pot. Searing carmelizes the meat, adding more richness and depth. Charring the cabbage leaves brings out their sweetness. As they slow cook over the fire, all the flavors meld together creating a delicious balance to this fire-style fårikål.
Give yourself some time to set up your fire area safely. When the fire is ready, you can start preparing the fire-style fårikål, and as it slow cooks you can check on it here and there. Before it’s ready to serve, boil some potatoes on top of the grill or wrap them in foil and roast them in the embers.
Fire-Style Fårikål (Lamb & Cabbage)
- 4 ½ pounds (2 kg) good quality lamb on the bone, such as neck, shoulder, or shank meat, cut into large pieces
- Mild-flavored oil
- Salt, for seasoning
- 4 ½ pounds (2 kg) white cabbage, cored and cut into large wedges
- 1 2/3 cups (400 ml) water
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- Lightly salted butter, for serving (optional)
Prepare an outdoor fire. You’ll need a grill to set over the fire and a way to hang the pot safely above the flames. Alternatively, you can set the pot on top of the grill, being cautious of the temperature as the fårikål cooks.
Season the lamb cuts with a drizzle of oil and salt on both sides. Place them on the grill directly over the flames, sear until golden brown, then flip and sear the other sides. Remove and set aside.
Lightly oil the cabbage wedges, season with a little salt, then place on top of the grill and sear until slightly charred on both sides, turning gently to avoid the leaves from falling through the grill into the fire.
Pour the water into a large, heavy pot suitable for cooking over fire. Arrange a layer of the lamb on the bottom of the dish, followed by a layer of cabbage. Sprinkle with some of the peppercorns and a little salt. Repeat this process until you’ve used all the ingredients and finish with a final layer of cabbage on top. Cover and hang over the flames to bring to a boil. Move the pot higher up from the fire to gently simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until the lamb is tender and falling off of the bone. Watch the fire while cooking, adding more wood as necessary, and move the pot up and down to keep a gentle simmer.
When ready, serve warm with boiled (or ember-roasted) potatoes and a good dab of butter if desired.