Two ways with my half a goat*

A little while ago I got an email from my friend and neighbour Jem which said “Want half a goat? This message has been sent from my blackberry.” I checked whether the goat had free ranged, and when I found out it was pasture-raised by his colleague’s relatives in the country, I was all in. A few days later he popped around with a bag containing half a very fresh young kid.

I knew there was no huge rush to cook it, as the meat hadn’t been aged for long. It was firm, with barely any smell, so I bagged it up and set about investigating what to do with it. With meat so fresh, and a beast so young, you can really cook it like a Spring lamb, but I wanted something goatier. The kid was small, so I figured I could make one dish from the leg, and one from the shoulder.

Indian is an obvious choice as most Indian “mutton” recipes actually refer to goat meat (or so I read). However I ruled that out as we’d just finished the leftovers of a delicious Raan, an Indian spiced leg of lamb. The recipe, from the Foods of the World India book, involved briefly marinating the leg in a paste of ginger, garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, salt and lemon juice rubbed into slashes in the leg. It then got a prolonged – two day – marinade in a puree of almonds, cashews (substituting for the original pistachios), raisins, honey and yoghurt. Then a saffron bath before a slow roast. It was, as you would hope after all that time and sixteen additional ingredients, utterly sumptuous, but I fancied something other than a curry.

I was shocked – shocked! – at my difficulty in turning up goat/kid recipes. I’ve recently written about my extensive cookbook problem collection, but it’s got some big gaps. Big goat-shaped gaps, as it turns out. Finding nothing in Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion was a sad portent of what was to come. I knew that many African cultures enjoy goat meat, but I have only two African cookbooks (by Dorinda Hafner and Tess Mallos), neither of which had any goat recipes. After pottering through a number of other books, and failing to find anything, I hit food blog search which trawls 3000+ food blogs, and twitter.

Jackie of Eating with Jack tweeted that she’d found a similar difficulty, and developed her own recipe for roasted goat shoulder, inspired by a meal in Spain. That was the shoulder sorted then, and I decided on a Birria do Chivo from a newly-discovered blog, Masa Assasin for the leg.

We ate the shoulder first. Jack’s recipe requires slowly cooking the browned shoulder on a bed of aromatic veggies with wine and stock then uncovering it and finishing the salted joint under high heat. She used suckling goat and the piece she used weighed 1.5 kilos; mine was barely a kilo, so obviously extremely young. I reduced the cooking time a little, and we ate it with a very creamy mash.

cooked shoulder

It was sensational. Incredibly tender, but any beast that age and size would be. The flavour was delicate but with the definite richness and slightly gamey flavour of goat meat. Thanks to Jackie for the recipe – we will definitely be having this again.

Sadly, the Birria was not so successful. It was tasty, but not exceptional. I think the first mistake I made was to use such young meat for a dish that has very long, moist cooking. We lost the texture that was so pleasurable in Jackie’s recipe and the meat didn’t have the intensity of flavour that an older beast lends to such a preparation.

Checking out the original recipe will make it obvious why I had been so excited. Mike, the author, has Mexican and Cuban heritage and lives in San Diego, just a whisker above Mexico. His expertise is obvious, and the site is fantastic, with descriptive unfussy photography and nice clear instructions. But I’ve never eaten a Birria of any kind, and had no palate memory of what I was doing. And I lacked some of the chillies used, which are quite hard to find here. If I had eaten the dish before, I would have known whether using the chillies I had already – a mixture of dried Ancho, chipotle and habanero – was a sensible one. The smell of them toasting:


was extraordinarily good. After that you reconstitute them and whizz them with vinegar, garlic, allspice, pepper and oregano, and tiny quantities thyme, cloves, cinnamon and cumin. The meat sits in a splash of vinegar overnight, is browned and then cooked in a big pot in a broth with onion, bay and the strained chilli paste. Not knowing any other use for the goat’s rib cage that I’d been provided with, I thought that its collagen and gelatin might go some way to making up for the goat’s head included in the original recipe.

You eat the Birria in a bowl, with corn tortillas and a range of traditional side dishes – oregano, chopped onion, limes, radishes, coriander and salsa:


It was tasty, but didn’t compare to the shoulder the night before. The wikipedia link to Birria up there says it’s known for it’s variety, as different cooks use different peppers, but my combo lacked some depth of flavour. I’d love to hear what any experienced Birria cooks or eaters out there use, or alternatively find a steady supply of fancy dried Mexican chillies.

* Sounds best if you put on your Barnsey voice.


19 thoughts on “Two ways with my half a goat*

  1. I’m sorry to hear about the leg but so pleased the shoulder worked for you.
    It so lovely to think of someone following my recipe. Such a complement!

  2. I wonder if much of the difficulty with finding recipes that use goat in Australian published cookbooks is that it isn’t a widely available meat here, so publishers don’t believe there’s a market for recipes that use it. Our cookbook writers have simply substituted lamb (so much more widely available here) when adapting recipes from those cultures where goat is a more common meat.


    Always good to read about your culinary exploits.

  3. I think that’s certainly part of it, Kirsty, and you wouldn’t index a recipe headnote saying “this is traditionally made with goat, but this is a lamb recipe”. I think another reason might be that goat is not a “restauranty” meat in Australia – so while it might not be that common to cook duck at home (although I like to) local chefs have lots of duck recipes at their disposal.

    I’ll certainly be seeking out more.

  4. It was tiny, DSO. There was plenty of Birria, but the shoulder fed 2 big people and one small one for dinner. As you can see from Jethro’s response to the goat shoulder he’s a bit over food at the moment:

    Helen, I believe the internet has specialty sites for that.

  5. *sob* *small voice* it was tiny? Poor tiny wee Jethro probably sympathised with the tiny animule … oh, hang on, we are talking about Jet-row. Did he like the washing up?

  6. That lack of recipes is interesting, isn’t it, when you think about the number of cultures who eat goat regularly. It’s obviously yet to be ‘discovered’ by the cookbook darlings. That shoulder recipe looks terrific.

  7. Ah so that was what your tweeting about chillies was all about!

    We’ve been exploring goat lately – buying it from the poultry guys (!!) at the Belconnen Markets. We’ve stuck to curries and have been happy so far but half a goat? You’re lucky!

  8. I was wondering about the dearth of recipes as well AD. As you say, worldwide goat is a hugely popular meat (possibly because it conforms to Hindu and Islamic dietary strictures?) but we’re just starting to come to grips with it here (and also to an extent in the USA).

    We’ve been buying our goat from Ando Organics @ Epic so I’ll have to ask the question about larger cuts.

  9. The butchers in Marrickville used to sell fresh goat, so maybe look for Greek or Lebanese recipes for goat? I also had a great goat curry at a Tibetan restaurant in Crown St in Surry Hills once.

  10. Yeah i echo Mindy, you couldn’t find any recipies in a Greek Recipie book. I see a lot of goat for sale and wandering off to the car park, mind you it looks like a lot of it is destined to be roasted, usually on a spit.

    Back in my last group house we ate a lot of goat from the vic and Prahran markets, the Tatooed Yankee and i started collecting recipies, i’ll ask him if he still has the folder.

  11. you could always raise your own goats and then eat them. they make nice pets (just keep them away from the washing) and even nicer dinner. My mum still thinks it’s hilarious that when I was little I came home from kindy and asked what was for dinner and she said roast leg of Lilly [the goat]. oh dear

    How about some kind of jerk goat recipe? It’s really common in London because of the west Indian connection. We had it at last year’s Notting Hill Carnival with peas and rice and plantain.

    Would Australian customs let me post you jerk spice mix?

  12. Mmm. Goat, the Ainslie IGA used to sell it, but i think it also vanished when the Coota Meats butcher stopped supplying them with the organic stuff.

    Raan is known as ‘Lamb of God’ in my circle. I use Charmaine Solomon’s recipe, and I have made it with goat. It works nicely, but was fattier than lamb.

  13. Hey what a wonderful site you have, I’m sorry the Birria didn’t come out as you expected. If you take a stab at it again and have questions feel free to contact me. Thanks for the mention.

  14. Thanks Mike, and I’m certainly going to make it again. I think I need to learn more about Mexican flavours (and in particular the different types of chillies) and play around.

  15. I’m another goat lover, so great to find this thread and the other sites you’ve pointed us towards. Have been making a goat rojan josh for a while – divine spicy succulence.

    A lot of butchers up here (Cairns) order goat in on request, I’ve just had my local butcher get me in a fresh 1/2 beast and butcher it to order – a leg, a whole shoulder, and the rest in large dice on the bone (for flavoursome curries and stews).

    One tip for recipes is to search for mutton – many asian cultures describe goat as mutton.

    Tonight I’m roasting the shoulder. Having searched my recipe books and read your post and Jack’s site I’ve decided to try a mix of oil, honey, lemon, lemon zest, baharat spice mix (my own), garlic, white wine, tomato, dried oregano and chilli.

    I’ll let you know how it goes!


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