21 November 2019

Lamb with Coffee and Mackerel? Why Our Tastebuds Prefer Unusual Pairings

What do you picture when you think of tucking into a succulent piece of roast lamb? Maybe some seasonal veg or chunky potatoes? A side of gravy? Well, we’ve delved into the public’s foodie habits, in collaboration with Food Scientist and Flavour Expert Dr. Rachel Edwards-Stewart, and have discovered we may have been pairing lamb with the wrong ingredients all along.


How Do We Know These Pairings Work?

As part of this year’s celebration of Love Lamb Week, research explored why lamb tastes so good, as well as using scientific rigour to find its perfect food pairings.

By looking at the molecular make-up of lamb, the research discovered which foods shared similar flavour compounds to the meat which, in layman’s terms, equates to a yummy pairing.

The research revealed some surprising results; it turns out your morning coffee is ideal with a well-cooked slice of lamb!

Be Bold With Your Flavours!

Broadly speaking, the research revealed that bold and bitter flavours pairs perfectly with lamb. Flavours such as dark chocolate and coffee were found to pair well with lamb, even to the point where they significantly enhanced the flavour of the meat.

The most surprising finding, though, was mackerel and shellfish. Usually, people would see lamb and seafood as being complete opposites, but according to the research, they’re a match made in culinary heaven. Dairy products such as brie were listed as a good match too, as well as tangy citrus fruits like lemon and grapefruit.

Both sake and whiskey were revealed as the go-to beverage to have with a lamb dinner, in place of the more traditionally thought of ‘glass of red’.   In fact, the research revealed that both sake and lamb contain an aroma which has cocoa and almond notes, so when paired together it can bring out some of these unexpected flavours to the meal.

While some of these pairings may seem a little odd, food and cuisine is an ever-evolving discipline, so we may see some of these “unconventional” pairings becoming household favourites soon.

So, Which Food Came Out Top?

According to science, the top pairings to have with lamb are as follows:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Honey
  • Sake
  • Mackerel
  • Grapefruit

Thankfully, some of lamb’s most famous pairings such as garlic and onions were also listed as a good option, so don’t feel pressured to suddenly cook your lamb with a side of coffee and grapefruit.

Following the results of the report, Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart commented:
“Whilst many of these ingredients are common in cooking, people can often be afraid to put bold flavours together. This research shows that the traditional pairings of rosemary or mint may not be the best food to bring out all of the flavours lamb has to offer, and people can afford to be a bit bolder in their choices.”

So if you fancy giving these unusal food pairings a go, but not sure where to start – how about ‘dipping your toe’ in with these two recipes; Lamb and Coffee Stew and Lamb Leg Steak with Garlic Potatoes and Grapefruit Salad.

Whether you’re a traditionalist or fancy trying something new, use our recipe finder to search all our classics and latest recipes.