A great benefit of living in the UAE is that many “exotic” food items are easily attainable. In my previous abodes the procurement of goat meat required an exhausting trip to an outer borough, or a hidden ethnic grocery, or an advanced internet order. Now all I need to do is take a short drive to Lulu Hypermarket.
There is some confusion regarding what to call goat meat. Mutton is the term used in South Asian countries. In the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, mutton and lamb both refer to sheep meat. Sheep meat that is less than one year in age is called lamb. Over a year, and the meat becomes gamier and tougher and is called mutton. This is the origin of British expression “mutton dressed as lamb” which describes an older woman trying to appear younger, albeit unsuccessfully. In the last few years, some goat-meat enthusiasts in the States have coined the term “chevon” from the French word for goat cheese, chèvre. U.S. market research has shown the word “chevon” to be more appetizing than “goat meat, “ but I have yet to see it on a menu, so I assume it hasn’t caught on yet.
Though very popular in most global cuisines, Western palates have been surprisingly reticent to consume goat meat. Could it be because of their somewhat satanic appearance? Or their presumed uncleanliness — who hasn’t seen a dopey-looking goat chewing on some trash in their travels? Maybe it is because goats are so skinny and do not yield the large cuts of meat that Westerners are accustomed to eating.
Whatever the case, one shouldn’t be nervous about putting Pan in a pan (sorry, couldn’t resist). If you’ve never tried goat meat, it has similar gaminess to lamb coupled with the texture of a tender cut of beef. It is also a healthy alternative red meat. It is leaner than both beef and lamb and has half the fat of chicken. It also has more protein than beef.
Contrary to the expression, mutton is very easily dressed as lamb. I use it interchangeably in lamb recipes. One of my favorite things to do, especially in cooler weather, is to braise the goat meat as a ragú to be served over pasta. This is a good dish to for entertaining because it easily feeds many and a large part of the cooking time is unattended. I prefer to make this dish two days in advance of serving to allow the flavors to meld and develop. In this particular instance, mutton does get better with age.
- 1 ½ kilos mutton shoulder cut into small cubes
- ½ cup of flour
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 2 medium onions
- 2 small carrots
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp each of thyme, rosemary, chili flakes
- 2 small dried bay leaves
- 1 cup of dry red wine
- 1 – ounce can of tomatoes
- Salt and Pepper
- Hot Water
Preheat oven to 350 ºF/175 °C
Season the mutton cubes with salt and pepper, and then toss in the flour. In a large oven-proof pot, heat the ½ the olive oil and brown the goat in batches. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
In the same pot, heat the remaining olive oil. In a food processor, pulse the carrots, onion and garlic cloves until chopped finely and add to the pot. Saute the vegetables until soft making sure to scrape up the brown bit from the bottom of the pan. Add the dry herbs and sauté for 1 -2 minutes. Add the seared goat meat and accumulated juiced back to the pot. Add the tomatoes, wine, and enough hot water from a kettle to just cover the meat. Let the mixture come to a simmer and then cover the pot and place in the oven. Let the mixture braise for 2 ½ hours, stirring every ½ hour or so. Once complete, season with salt and pepper to taste.