As a typical Capricorn I tend to think of goats at this time of year naturally enough. The other time is at the Puck Fair in summer when one lucky or unlucky chosen one is plucked from the hills around Kerry and paraded for a few days of celebrations as part of their ancient festival. I often wonder how the crowned goat readjusts to mountain life after a week of royal treatment.
Ireland however is perfect for goats with our rough hilly terrain which they thrive on. We even have a rare old Irish goat breed that is an endangered species now. Goats love to forage eating most of the things other fussier grazers will not touch, so wild goat is a real treat flavour wise. They have seriously good balance too hanging precariously off cliff edges to feed themselves. Capricorns have been known to live on the edge also as the trailblazers leading everyone else through the year or so we like to believe.
We do not however think much then of eating goat here, but it is a fabulous meat in its own right. We associate it more with its cheese which is delicious too but not the stronger tasting variety which can really be over pungent. There are excellent Irish goat cheeses now; my favourites being the well established St.Tola and Ardsallagh brands and my fantastic tasting local one called Boyne Valley produced near Slane.
It’s probably the healthiest cheese you can eat as it is digested more easily with less protein and lactose for us to process, it has more vitamins and minerals, less calories and proportionally goats produce more milk so it’s eco friendlier. If you are lactose intolerant it is the one to eat. In dry arid climates they can actually prevent bush fires as they will eat away all the scrub that can become a hazard. Now that is a bonus. What is not to like about goats then?
I first ate goat cheese in France as a twelve year old and have enjoyed it ever since. I actually prefer it sprinkled with fresh herbs and grilled on some toast with a few salad leaves and a walnut oil dressing. It makes a refreshing change from the standard cheese course. You will find this as a fashionable starter on modern menus but back in the 1980’s it was a revelation for me when I was preparing it in a Brittany restaurant.
Goat meat or chevron as is an entirely different matter. I was in my early twenties before I had my first curried goat stew done Caribbean style in a West Indian London family home. It was deeply flavoured and unctuous served with plain rice and cool beer. The Caribbean is most synonymous with goat cookery having them introduced by the Spanish. Jamaica probably has the biggest reputation for it by cooking it slowly, flavoured with spices like I had but they do many other dishes too. Further afield goats or kid more likely, are commonly eaten across Portugal, Greece, Italy, Eastern Europe, Central and South America, Africa and the Middle East. It is popular in the Far East too such as in places like the Philippines where again thanks to the Spanish influence restaurants will even specialize in it. Upmarket restaurants in the States will have goat on menus these days also.
Kid is the young goat and the flavour is not as strong, as the older goat meat can be like mutton with a gamier flavour. It is sometimes spit roasted whole like a lamb or pig as part of a festivity like weddings, New Year, Christmas or Easter. So if you have never had the chance to eat goat then do try it if the opportunity ever presents itself. It is not easy to get, there is a good farm in Galway producing it for sale and delivery and other artisan craft butchers will source some for you if you ask. So to all my fellow goats here’s to stubbornness and being leaders of the pack.