When it comes to meat, I do appreciate lamb, but it’s something I don’t cook at home very often. Even in autumn, you rarely find lamb from Switzerland at the grocery store. But, just recently I discovered some lamb ragout from the Swiss Alps at the meat counter.
Back home, I browsed several of our cookbooks and eventually, I came across this recipe for lamb with beer and shallots by Nigel Slater – one of my favorite food writers. Apart from his polished writing, there two qualities about his recipes that I appreciate: they are simple, and you can readily adapt them to your liking or to the stuff your kitchen has to offer. Also, while we do use wine in our cooking quite often, adding beer to a dish is still relatively new to me. So, I just had to try this! The original recipe uses lamb shanks, but it worked very well with the ragout I bought.
How to make Lamb with Beer and Shallots
The lamb tasted even more delicious than I initially expected. In the process of cooking, I indeed became somewhat skeptical that this could turn out great. To be honest, the smell and look of the dish were a bit unexpected the moment I emptied a whole can of beer into the pot. But the fluid reduces nicely and adds the perfect moisture to the lamb. As a side, we had mashed potatoes – the ideal match for the delicious sauce – and some simple endive salad.
- 400g of lamb ragout
- Some olive oil or butter
- 6 small or 4 medium shallots
- 500ml beer – I used a can of lager, Slater suggests wheat beer
- a couple of fresh rosemary stems
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
Season the lamb shanks with some sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Put them aside in a bowl and prepare the shallots. The original recipe calls for whole shallots, but as the ones we had at home were on the bigger side, I decided to chop them into quarters – the right decision I believe as they essentially melted in the cooking process, adding all their taste into the sauce.
In a deep pan or dutch oven braise the lamb evenly in olive oil or butter. Add the shallots to the lamb and keep braising the ingredients until the shallots get some color. Then carefully pour in the beer. The mix might foam, so make sure to use a deep enough pot or pan. Add the rosemary stems, the bay leaves and cover the pot with a lid – leave a small opening using a wooden spoon between the lid and the pot. Let the lamb simmer in the beer for about an hour.
In the meantime, you can prepare your side dish.
After an hour, I suggest you take a piece of lamb to test its consistency. When the meat falls apart readily by the pull of a fork, it is done. If it is still dense and somewhat chewy, leave it in the brew a little bit longer. Remove the meat from the pan using a strainer or a spoon and leave it in a bowl covered with foil to rest.
To make the sauce, stir the honey and mustard into the cooking juices until they dissolve. Crank up the heat and reduce the sauce while stirring until it becomes thick and creamy.
Plate the lamb and the side dish in bowls or shallow plates and spoon over the sauce. Enjoy!
If you are curious about the original recipe for this lamb with beer and shallots, you can find it in Nigel Slater’s A Year of Good Eating or alongside some other delicious autumn recipes on The Guardian.