September 28 is Fårikål Feast Day
Taste of Norway Editor
I remember the first time I tasted fårikål. I had read for a long time about this stew of lamb and cabbage that is Norway’s national dish. It seemed too simple, I thought—just lamb and cabbage, with water, salt, and pepper, the building blocks of most stews. But armed with bone-in lamb, cabbage, and a handful of recipes, I began the traditional process of arranging the ingredients in the pot, letting it all simmer, and trusting that some sort of culinary magic would take place. The results far exceeded my expectations.
I couldn’t anticipate the way the modest list of ingredients would somehow yield perfectly restrained results. The flavors of the cabbage and lamb shone individually and yet felt informed by one another. The whole peppercorns added an herbal, subtle floral note that accented the flavor of the lamb.
Fårikål has been Norway’s national dish since 1972, and Fårikålens Festdag, Fårikål Feast Day, takes place on the fourth Thursday of September—September 28 this year.
Fårikål’s ingredients reflect foods that are integral to the Nordic region. Sheep are a fixture of Norwegian mountains, and cabbage has a significant role in Nordic history—it’s one of the oldest vegetables in the region, writes Camilla Plum in The Scandinavian Kitchen, who adds that it was the only vegetable grown in the Viking age. Though it mutes to a nondescript color as it cooks down, it remains flavorful, cozy, and nourishing.
I’ve come to appreciate fårikål for not only its simplicity but also its ease. After layering or nestling the ingredients in a pot, all you need to do is wait for a couple hours, perhaps boiling some potatoes to serve on the side, and dinner is served. While some people swear by leftovers (true, many stews are even better the following day), there’s nothing saying you have to make a large batch of fårikål to enjoy it.
The recipe I’m sharing with you today makes enough for two, with perhaps just a little leftover. Also if you happen to have leftover broth, save it and use it for the base of a lamb soup later in the week.
Aside from the small quantity, this recipe is typical. Many recipes call for layering the ingredients in a pot, but with a small batch, nestling them is fine. Don’t mess with the dish as it cooks, aside from checking it every once in a while; let the cabbage retain its shape. As unattractive as fårikål often is—and that’s to be expected—this is one way to preserve the visual integrity of the ingredients.
Serve with boiled potatoes—red-skinned ones with flecks of green parsley will further add visual interest. Flatbread and lingonberry preserves round out the meal.
For as simple as fårikål is, the results are fantastic. The challenge for many may be the cooking time, a long time for a weeknight. If you’d like to mark Fårikålens Festdag this month with a batch of homemade fårikål but don’t have the time, feel free to make it in advance—it reheats easily and will taste just as good—perhaps even better—the next day.
1 ½ lbs. lamb (shoulder, shank, or neck), cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
1 ½ lbs. green cabbage, cut into wedges
1-2 tsps. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. salt
water to barely cover (approximately 4 cups)
In a large pot, nestle the lamb among the cabbage wedges. Sprinkle the peppercorns and salt over it, then add water to just barely cover. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about two hours, until the lamb is remarkably tender and pulls easily away from any bones.
To serve, carefully lift the cabbage out of the pot and arrange it in bowls with pieces of the lamb. Pour the broth over, and make sure to distribute peppercorns between the bowls.
This recipe first appeared on Outside Oslo.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 22, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.