“James knows an awful lot about goats,” Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage declares on the cover of James Whetlor’s manifesto promoting the often-overlooked animal.
A River Cottage alumnus, Whetlor’s relationship with goats began when he took on a few of the animals to help solve a land management problem. Some eventually found their way onto the River Cottage menu, where diners were quick to show their approval, giving the chef the idea for a new enterprise that could also be a solution to a moral dilemma faced by farmers rearing goats for dairy products – the widespread euthanasia of billy kids (male off-spring) shortly after birth.
Whetlor went on to found Cabrito Meat and in 2012 it made its first sale to Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis in Soho. Whetlor has been championing the meat ever since, driven by his belief that it’s wrong to give any animal’s life “absolutely no value”.
In Goat: Cooking and Eating, Whetlor charts mankind’s relationship with the animal back more than 5,000 years to Ötzi the iceman, whose corpse was discovered preserved in the Ötztal Alps in Italy in 1991 with half a kilo of goat meat inside his stomach. By 1390, goat meat had made its way to the court of King Richard II, but, while it remains a staple ingredient across much of the world, it fell out of favour with the British. In his bid to change this, Whetlor goes on to showcase the versatility of the meat in more than 90 recipes.
The recipes are divided into five sections based upon cooking technique: slow, quick cooks, over fire, roast and baked. Curries, pasta dishes, burgers, schnitzels and won tons are all featured in the selection, with submissions from chefs including Yotam Ottolenghi, Neil Rankin, Gill Mellor and Jeremy Lee.
Whetlor’s aim in writing Goat: Cooking and Eating was to inspire consumers, restaurateurs and chefs to promote goat through their purchasing decisions. He has created a fascinating read, guaranteed to change the way you look at this largely neglected ingredient.
Goat: Cooking and Eating by James Whetlor (Quadrille, £20)