9 November 2012

Kid Goat done in the Slow Cooker - Seco de Chivo

I was chatting on Twitter with Jason at Farmer's Choice, talking about the British Rose veal dish I was making - Veal Marsala, which I'll blog about very soon - and the problem of the waste of veal calves that are shot at birth (or thereabouts) through there being very little call for the meat.

Much to my surprise - and only because I hadn't thought about it, but it made sense once I knew - they mentioned that there is a similar problem in the goat milk industry, with male kid goats being killed at birth.  Obviously, female kid goats can go back into the industry and provide milk - but there is very little call for goat meat and so the male goats are just disposed of as being surplus to requirements.

Now I'm sure you all know (by now) how I feel about the veal calves - and there is really no difference with regard to kid goats.  If we're going to keep on producing male kid goats, then surely we need to develop a liking for the meat and so provide these little fellows at least with a short, but happy, life.

Pre-trimming - see what I mean about the fat?
Because he's lovely like that, Jason immediately offered to send me a pack of Farmer's Choice stewing goat meat, to sample.

Well, that sent me into a bit of a spin, as never having cooked with goat before I had no reference as to how to deal with it.  The first question that arose was how old the goat was, as that made a huge difference to how it was cooked.  A lot of the advice I was being given was with regard to "grown-up" goat meat, which can be tough.  It turned out that this goat meat is just 3-4 months old - so still very much kid goat.  "Treat it like spring lamb" was the advice.

I spent three days or more, looking at goat recipes and trying to avoid making the famed Caribbean Curry Goat.  It just seemed such an obvious thing to do - and you can find recipes all over the internet for Curry Goat.  I wanted to find something tasty and different to do with my goat.

The recipe I wound up with - "Seco de Chivo", translates as "Dry Goat".  However, the way I cooked it, meant it wound up being anything but dry - both in the texture of the meat and the quantity of the sauce.  I may not have carried out the recipe in its true character - but looking at various photographs of the same dish online, I think I came pretty darned close.

Upon unpacking the goat meat, I discovered that with 1kg, I had rather more meat than I was anticipating.  I had imagined that, because the goat was so young, it would be scrawny and more bone than meat.  In fact, what I had in front of me was a very decent quantity of meat, some bone (which is always good for flavour in a stewing pack) and rather more fat than I had expected.  I suppose it just goes to show how well the kid goats were looked after, that they managed to build up such a good fat covering in just 3-4 months!  Now this fat immediately presented itself as something of a challenge.  You'll remember how fat phobic my menfolk are - which is why we never cook pork belly, for instance.  Lamb shanks are also out for the very same reason.  However, not all of the pieces of goat were fatty - there were three large shoulder chop shaped pieces that looked very good.  So after some judicious trimming (which the three waggy-tailed dustbins were very happy to help with - and Jonty, the Saluki, would have it be known that originating from the Middle East as they do, he was put on this earth to eat goat) I was left with a pretty decent amount of usable meat - probably around 600g or so.

All ready for 4 hours' thinking about life
Now, at £7 for the 1kg pack, the price doesn't seem so bad until you realise that you're going to have to use the entire pack for your one dinner.  I have to admit that I was anticipating using half - as 500g of meat usually does us for one dinner for 3.  Because of the bone and fat that's involved in the weight - and is inedible at the end of the process - it just goes to show that kid goat meat isn't going to be mainstream fare just yet!  Well, not unless we all get behind it and cook it regularly - so causing the price to reduce.

As I had never tasted goat in anything but milk & cheese before, when browning the meat, I had cut off a sliver to try in its plain fried format.  My goodness, but I was so surprised at both the texture and the flavour!

Now anyone who has ever succumbed to the gorgeous smells that browning steak gives off and cut a slice for "cutter's tasters" (as my Dad refers to it), will know that sometimes what smells gorgeous is often fairly tough and indigestible without resting.  Not with this kid goat.  The piece of meat just melted in the mouth and the flavour was so sweet!  I was just blown away by its sweetness - way, way sweeter than lamb would have been.  I was expecting a certain goaty mustiness to the flavour, but no - it was absolutely divine.  I wondered then about the wisdom of putting it with big flavours in the cooker, but bowing to popular goaty recipes - and my recipe was specifically for kid goat - continued on.

I was also prepared to be slightly challenged by the smell of the kid goat meat cooking in the frying pan - as I was when I browned off some wild rabbit pieces once.  There was none of that, though, as the smell was very slightly lamby but with an indefinable quality that was obviously goat - but being new to me, I found it hard to put a finger on it.  Not at all unpleasant.

The flavours that accompanied the browned goat meat into the slow cooker were amazing in their combination.  Red onion, garlic, green peppers, cumin, chilli, tomato, pale ale (I know!), oregano, honey, celery and allspice all combined to make a really surprising and interesting sauce.

Should I ever be called upon to make this dish again - and it would be fabulous with lamb, if you don't fancy or can't find goat - I will definitely pour off the sauce at the end of the cooking period and reduce it in a saucepan so as to intensify the flavours, instead of just plain old thickening it.  I think we may have lost some of the complexity of the sauce by omitting that process - but it is one of the hazards of converting a casserole into the slow cooker.  I've reflected this change in the recipe below.

So what did we think of the finished dish?

Well, I liked it - and would have liked it more, with the sauce having been reduced instead of thickened.  I have no compunction in picking meat off of bones and a certain degree of fattiness doesn't bother me.  For instance, I'd be perfectly prepared to eat pork belly.  However, if the idea of pork belly fills you with revulsion - then the goat stew pack isn't for you.  The delicate flavour of the meat became somewhat lost in amongst the big flavours involved in the sauce and the meat lost a lot of its character.  I can't imagine it ever succeeding as curry goat, as it would be utterly tasteless in amongst the fiery curry spices.  For such a tender, gently flavoured meat as young kid goat, it needs to be accompanied by subtle flavourings.

Hubby absolutely hated the degree of fattiness involved in the stew pack meat, but liked the meat itself.  As he said, it has a character all of its own.  You can't say "oh, it's like young veal" or "spring lamb" as it just isn't.  It is kid goat - and until you've tasted it, you won't recognise it.  However, we did agree that anyone who likes lamb and pork would definitely like kid goat.

Son & heir was like his Dad in being challenged by the fattiness, but enjoyed what meat he could find.  He very definitely missed the obvious, large lumps of meat that comes with a diced chicken breast, or beef brisket.  He's only just recently got used to accepting sauce or gravy on his meat, so having to sieve out the meat from the sauce wasn't entirely his "thing".  However, he had no qualms over the flavour.

Considering we were all agreed that, in another incarnation, we would all eat kid goat again - I think we can class this experiment as a success.

Now, a quick word about the couscous dish that I served the goat with.

This is after the style of Ottolenghi's "Ultimate Winter Couscous", except made a little less complicated and with a somewhat different finish.  I made up the couscous with some of the lovely Essential Cuisine Vegetable Stock powder, which gave it a lovely flavour and slight saltiness, along with a knob of butter which melted and got mixed in.  I oven roasted small cubes of butternut squash, carrot, parsnip, courgette and quartered mushrooms, that had been tossed in rapeseed oil, hot paprika and ground cumin prior to roasting.  I then mixed those all into the couscous, along with some sliced spring onion, chopped dates, fresh mint leaves and fresh coriander.  Once served, the plate was sprinkled with Sumac and drizzled with my new favourite ingredient, Pomegranate Molasses.  Wowser but that stuff has punch!

Sitting back and looking at the finished plateful, I had to admit, it was certainly different!

SECO DE CHIVO  (Kid goat cooked in the slow cooker)  Feeds 3

Ingredients :

1kg kid goat stew meat (or cubed lamb shoulder)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 red onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 green capsicum pepper, cored, de-seeded and cut into chunks
half a tsp of ground cumin
half a tsp of ground black pepper
1 red chilli, seeds removed
2 large vine ripened tomatoes (the tastier the variety, the better)
300ml pale ale
half a tsp oregano
1 tsp honey
1 celery stalk, chopped (include leaves if there are any)
a large pinch of allspice
sea salt
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh coriander, chopped, for sprinkling.

Method :

1.  In a large frying pan, heat the oil until very hot.  Sear the goat meat until lightly browned.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat to the slow cooker and turn it to low.

2.  Reduce the heat under the frying pan and add the onions.  Fry until softened.

3.  Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so, then add the green peppers and continue to cook until beginning to soften.

4.  Add the cumin and black pepper.

5.  Meanwhile, in a food processor or with a hand blender, blend together the chilli, tomatoes and 100ml of the beer.

6.  Add the mixture to the frying pan, along with the honey, oregano, allspice and celery.

7.  Add the remainder of the beer and stir through.

8.  Taste to check the seasoning and add a little sea salt, if necessary.

9.  Decant into the slow cooker and gently stir to distribute the meat amongst the sauce.

10.  Cook on low for 4 hours.

11.  At the end of this period, remove the meat with a slotted spoon and reserve somewhere to keep warm.

12.  Pour the remaining sauce into a saucepan and bring to a high simmer until reduced by half - some 10 minutes or so.

13.   Replace the meat in the sauce and very gently stir to coat the meat.

14.  Serve with a sprinkle of fresh oregano.

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