Cookbook road test: Goat – Cooking and Eating
I first heard James Whetlor on a radio programme several years ago, speaking passionately about the ethical arguments in favour of eating British goat meat. Whetlor is the founder of Cabrito, which takes kid goats from a nearby Devon dairy farm and raises them for meat. (Cabrito was shortlisted for a delicious. Produce Award).
As is the case with veal calves, young male goats have no role to play on a dairy farm, so they’re routinely euthanised soon after birth, a practice Whetlor finds ethically questionable.
The same clear-eyed passion comes across in his new book. The introductory chapters are engagingly written, well argued and unexpectedly absorbing.
Goats, he explains, were the first livestock animals to be domesticated, and even though they’ve never been an important meat animal in Britain (sheep are better suited to the terrain) they played an important part in our ancestors’ transformation from hunter-gatherers to farmers. The goat’s history mirrors human history.
The ethical argument comes across loud and clear too: “On a fundamental level I do not think it is right that we allow an animal’s life to have absolutely no value,” he writes. The goal of Cabrito, he says, is “to end the waste of the male kids in the British goat dairy system”. It’s refreshing to read a cookbook with such a well argued rationale.
Quality of the recipes
Whetlor worked as a chef for 12 years in London before returning home to Devon and working at River Cottage, and some of the recipes in the book are from fellow chefs such as Mark Hix and Gill Meller. Goat’s a popular meat around the globe and the recipes are suitably diverse, divided up by cooking method: slow, quick, over fire, roast, baked – but no dessert recipes, which is probably a good thing. I opted for a West African peanut curry and a Turkish-inspired kid, cabbage and bulgur wheat pilaf, but I was also tempted by Jamaican curry goat, Mexican kid mole and more.
Both recipes I cooked were paragons of concise precision (wordy recipes drive me spare) and worked perfectly – not always the case with chefs’ recipes. The curry was spicy, nutty and rich, the pilaf had a hint of sweetness and aromatic spices.
The only tricky bit was buying the goat meat. Even at Borough Market where the world’s most exotic ingredients come out to play, I had a job tracking it down. And that brings us to a fundamental problem. A book of recipes based on a single hard- to-find ingredient is likely to have a small market; and given this book’s quality, that’s a shame. You could substitute lamb and the recipes would (mostly) work just as well. And you can buy various cuts of goat at Cabrito’s online shop (cabrito.co.uk).
The solution? “Consumers have the power to make changes through the purchasing decisions they make,” Whetlor writes. Without a market, kid goats will continue to be considered worthless – so demand your goat!
Photography and design
The cover is striking, and Mike Lusmore’s food photography is clean and appealing. A small annoyance: the book’s a bit small, and it kept slamming itself shut when I was cooking from it.
Who’s it suitable for?
Readers with an ethical sense. If helping to fuel the market for ethical meat isn’t enough, half the royalties from book sales will go to the Farm Africa charity, which works to reduce poverty in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.
Want to be part of the solution? Buy the book and/or make the recipes (search ‘goat’ at deliciousmagazine.co.uk for two of them) and ask your butcher to stock goat meat.
Goat: Cooking and Eating by James Whetlor (£20; Quadrille)