Posted by: puebloman | August 23, 2009

Getting my goat

I sit in the silence of a summer evening, a silence punctuated only by the gentle farting of goats.

Our neighbour Antonio uses every spare space in the village to rear animals. Last year a building site, secured by plastic and bedsteads was given over to a gang of terrifying Xmas turkeys who sat on the roof and screamed at passers by. A little disused garden became home to a race of fighting cocks, an old stable became a warren of ‘campo’ rabbits. Last year three baby ostriches appeared in what had been the pony’s pen. They emerged each morning to spin round in wild fandagoes and dervish dances until they in their turn mysteriously disappeared. So now it’s goats, and Antonio’s herd has grown to about half a dozen from a single nanny and her kid.

Every pueblo has its own huge herd of goats each with its designated goatherd.

Grazing goats

Grazing goats

During the spring and autumn months the goats are run along the mountain roads to get a bite of fresh herbage. The trouble is, they will and do eat more or less anything they come across. Our neighbour Antonio feeds mango leaves to his with apparently no ill effects, though I have been burned more than once by the sap. No wonder they fart.

Goats will eat anything

Goats will eat anything

I feel indulgent towards goats in spite of their many stomachs because I’m acutely aware of a severe shortage of local goat meat. I find myself eyeing them up as stew and there is nothing so delicious as stewed elderly goat. Goats here are kept for thier milk, which is widely available straight from the udder. A delicious clean tasting cheese is produce that you can get ‘fresh’ or ‘cured’.

The present shortage of meat is due to the exeptional productivity this year – the result of exeptional rainfall. Adult goats that yield no or insufficient milk are slaughtered and sold as meat. On a Friday evening a couple are taken to a local butcher who cuts their throats and prepares them for sale the following morning. Unfortunately the butcher is often drunk and his skills are therefore not consistently available. I used to get a whole leg on a Saturday morning, sometimes two – but I quickly learned the protocol – not to take more than my share – a leg joint, a shoulder, a rack of ribs. The long queue of mujers will comment if you take too much. This meat is quite different from young billy goat meat.  Billys are slaughtered young, as is most commercial meat but nannys are slaughtered at the end of their productive life, life an old hen.

The meat of a mature goat (“mutton” goat) produces absolutely delicious daubes and stews. There is not a single part of the animal that isn’t tough as hell though the meat looks dark and red like well hung beef. In fact it is best treated like forequarter of beef. The fat should be painstakingly cut off and thrown away, unless you want to dubbin your boots with it. Cooked, it will taint the dish. Without it, the dish is entirely free from the classic goat “tang”. To enjoy this meat, any joint will do – the cheaper, the more work to prepare. Leg is easiest but tends to dryness. You need a kilo and a half of meat for four (buy more to ruthlessly discard fat and other tissue), half a dozen carrots, four big sweet Spanish onions, three sticks of celery, three cloves of garlic, half a preserved lemon, fresh chili, a spring of fresh bay and a bunch of fresh rosemary. Salt and pepper. Stock

1. Cut the meat into chunks and brown in a heavy skillet (brown, not grey!)
2. Tip this into your stew pot or slow cooker, add a splash of olive oil (not extra virgin!) to your pan and fry the chopped up onion and carrot til the onion is soft. Add the garlic, crushed with salt, at the end so as not to burn it. Add the celery, finely chopped, at the same time.
3. Stir this into the meat, adding the bay and rosemary. Strip out and discard the pulp of the lemon and cut the skin into thin strips. Add this.
4. Boil enough water to nearly cover this mixture. Add good quality stock powder (marigold is the best) until the flavour is strong and not too salty. Or make your own stock of course. Add to the meat and veg.

5. Cook at a slow simmer – a slow cooker is perfect, for up two hours, or until you can cut the meat with a spoon

6. Strain off the liquid and add a tiny amout of chili. You want to feel a little heat without it destroying or competing with the other flavours. Boil the liquid hard to reduce it by two thirds or until it starts to coat if you pour a little onto the meat. Taste it all the time for chili-heat and seasoning. If you’ve made it too hot, drop in a whole peeled potatoe to take out the heat. When the liquid is a rich and dark sauce pour it over the meat and veg. Warm through

7. Ladle  it onto a heap of saffron rice

8. Motto: Eat them before they eat us!

Goats eating Andalucia. Eat them before they eat us!

Goats eating Andalucia. Eat them before they eat us!

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