From a crispy pizza with chunks of tangy goat’s cheese to a flavoursome curry with creamy goat’s milk, Irish consumers have no problem adding goat produce to the cheeseboard so why are we so nervous about eating goat’s meat?
This week, Irene Bermingham covers an interesting story on consumer attitudes to goat’s meat and its clear that so much of it is down to misconception. When people go outside their comfort zone and give it a go, many are pleasantly surprised.
There is no chef in the country that knows this better than Sunil Ghai that runs Pickle Restaurant (as well as Tiffin and Street Restaurant) in Dublin.
This is no ordinary Indian restaurant. The restaurant wall is heaving with plaques-best chef in Dublin, best ethnic restaurant, best world cuisine.
Before COVID-19, bookings were hard to come by and many (this writer included) head there specifically for his signature dish – kid goat mince curry braised with onion, garlic and black cardamon.
Its spicy and aromatic, a taste explosion in your mouth and you scoop it up with pao bread, which are as soft as pillows with a crispy crust.
Sunil says: “When I came to Ireland in 2000, one of the first things I noticed was how hard it was to find goat’s meat. And I missed it – growing up in India, we were brought up eating goat. It is as common there as lamb is here.
“So when I opened Pickle, I was determined to put a goat’s dish on the menu and introduce Irish people to its fantastic flavours.
“I am not going to lie, there was a bit of hesitancy at the start. If anyone showed interest but was unsure, we would bring them a sample to try and if they didn’t like it, they could order another dish, no pressure. It was fantastic to see people’s reactions.
“More often than not they would go ahead and order it and over time, it has become our signature dish. We’re actually selling more through our takeaway service in lockdown than we were when the restaurant was fully open.”
Sunil says a lot of people think it will be very strong and gamey but it is much more subtle than that.
Powerful fresh spices are also essential to a good curry
“We use minced and diced goat as well as the bones when we braise it so all the marrow goes into the flavour and we cook it very slowly.
“Powerful fresh spices are also essential to a good curry.” And Sunil really means fresh.
“Not the spices that have been sitting in your pantry since 2001!” he laughs.
Sunil has always sourced his goat from Irish producers in Cork, Wicklow and Belfast but one goat producer who has really benefitted from Pickle’s signature dish is Penny Green, who has a small holding a few miles outside Roscommon town. “We’ve always had goats, on and off for years. I love the meat myself so about 10 years ago, when we had too many males we sold them off for the hospitality trade and its grown from there. It’s not a big market but at the same time there aren’t a lot of producers so we have been in a good place to meet that growing interest. We now have 90 goats, which is double what we had in 2010.
“We have supplied restaurants in Roscommon and Castlebar as well as Jaipur, which has three restaurants in Dublin, but Sunil is definitely our best customer and we’ve seen that spike in interest since he started doing takeaway during COVID. We’re supplying him with about 25kg of goat a week now.
“Some people find the flavour strong and a dairy goat can be quite tough, but we breed a boer goat which has a more subtle, mild flavour. They are thriving on the boggy land and enjoy the little herbs, grass and even the rushes on the land that contributes to the flavour. I would describe goat’s meat as a cross between beef and lamb, and well worth a taste.”
Don’t judge a book by its cover. That is certainly the case for The Anti-Cancer Cookbook. After all, when people see ‘cancer’ and ‘cookbook’ in the same sentence, many immediately assume that it is a very restrictive diet, eliminating dairy or sugar or whatever the research du jour is advising.
This book, however, developed by Dr Éadaoin Ní Bhuachalla and Dr Aoife Ryan from University College Cork has recipes that are practical and achievable and with guest recipes from food writers such as Neven Maguire and Derval O’Rourke, they are also tasty.
Speaking to Irish Country Living, author Aoife Ryan says: “From the start, we wanted this book to have a very common sense approach without the scaremongering. Many of us are scared of getting cancer or for cancer to come back. Evidence shows that about 40% of cancer is related to lifestyle choices, and therefore somewhat preventable.
“We felt a cookbook like this was really needed as there are a lot of myths out there about dairy, carbohydrates, sugar etc. So this isn’t about a fad, it’s not a celebrity following. It is based on solid evidence of the past 30 years with recipes that help people stay in the healthy weight.”
From wholesome soups to zingy salads and hearty dinners such as Italian meatballs, beef stroganoff and chicken and broccoli bake, it’s the kind of everyday cookbook you’ll come back to again and again. But the all-important question is, does it include delicious ingredients like butter and cream? “Yes,” she laughs. “But they are in smaller amounts than you would find in the more indulgent cookbooks. We don’t use alcohol in the cooking process and the only ingredient we don’t feature is processed meats like sausage or chorizo as we should be trying to limit them but otherwise there are lots of hearty, healthy meals.”
Available nationwide for €25.If you buy online at www.breakthroughcancer.ie, all royalties go to cancer research.