Chris and I returned to my student stomping ground, Oxford last weekend to pay a visit to Chris’s bro who has just moved back over from Dubai. Amongst his possessions he had stashed a magazine clipping which he kindly saved for me and which covers one of my favourite subjects in the whole wide world – sandwiches. I was drawn immediately to a confit oxtail creation and set out in search of the necessary caudal appendage in Oxford’s Covered Market. Alas, it was not to be – sold out in every one of the five or so butchers inside. And then I spotted the goat. Not advertised as ‘mutton for goat’, which is the usual offering of, well, mutton instead of goat but the genuine, bona fide Billy.
An early afternoon train meant I would get back in time to pick up the other requisite ingredients from Peckham – scotch bonnets, thyme and spring onions. Ingredients secured I scurried back to the house, my eager mind racing with thoughts of welcoming a whole brand new meat into my life. And then a thought struck me…I’d never cooked curry goat before but I would bet my bottom dollar it needs marinating overnight. A quick Google confirmed this. Knowing I wouldn’t have a chance to cook the next day I resolved to push on regardless – a brief 1 hour marinade and 3 hours on the hob.
The results were, quite simply, dribble inducing. I sprung out of bed the next morning and missioned it down Peckham Rye in search of some more goat, striking gold almost instantly. I bought double the amount this time plus some bony bits for extra flavour. This batch would get some overnight marinating, even longer, slower cooking and a healthy mountain of rice and peas on the side.
Making a dish like curry goat takes serious patience and I strongly advise stocking up on snacks to save sanity. The smell of the meat in the marinade is a tease, the smell of the marinated meat hitting the hot pan is enough to make your knees turn to jelly, and the smell as it bubbles away gently on the stove is almost unbearable. The reward however is a deep, complex curry with meat that melts apart when you so much as show it a fork.
Although the second batch of curry was even better than the first due to the extra effort, I’m not convinced it actually was goat meat. The first batch melted almost completely and tasted a little bit like lamb but a bit more beefy. This second batch smelled just a bit too, well, lamby. It also had a huge amount of fat, and tasted suspiciously like mutton. Hmm. Whatever, the resulting curry was still fruity, spicy, fragrant and rich. If you’ve never made curry goat before I strongly encourage you to try it, although avoid, if you can, using mutton dressed as goat.
For the curry powder (makes a small jar)
15g coriander seeds
Seeds from 7 cardamom pods
15g black peppercorns
10g fenugreek seeds
5g ground turmeric
15g ground ginger
10g ground cinnamon
Grind the whole spices in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and mix with well with the ready-ground spices. Store in an air tight jam jar or container.
For the curry
1kg goat meat, diced (or use mutton)
2 onions, finely chopped
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 scotch bonnet chilli, slit down the middle but left whole (or use two if you like it really hot)
2 tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander plus extra to garnish
Small sprig thyme, leaves only
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon spice mix for marinating, 1.5 tablespoons for cooking
1 bay leaf
Juice of 1 large lime
1 tablespoon caster sugar
500ml lamb stock (or use water)
2 tablespoons vegetable or groundnut oil, for frying
Mix the goat meat with 1 teaspoon of the curry powder, the spring onions, coriander and thyme. Mix well and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy based pan. Dust the marinade off the goat meat, reserving the marinade in the bowl. Brown the meat in batches. Set aside. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, then fry the onions gently for 20 ? 30 minutes, until softened and starting to caramelise. Add the 1.5 tablespoons spice mix, cumin, tomatoes, scotch bonnet, bay leaf and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, then add back the meat.
Add the stock plus 500ml water (or use 1 litre water instead) to the bowl that contained the marinade, rinsing it around to pick up all the residue, then add this to the pan with sugar and the goat. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for approximately two hours, or until the meat is very tender. Uncover and simmer for a further hour to thicken the gravy. Check the seasoning and serve.