Where does 2010 Catey's Chef Award winner Mark Hix turn when game season finishes? To goats. If you think he's kidding around, think again. Lean, gamey and keenly priced, it's also an excellent alternative to lamb. Tom Vaughan reports
Mark Hix has got the goat. Literally; he's got it by the legs and is heaving it on to the kitchen top ready for the butcher's knife, then, ultimately, his customers' plates.
"Game season has finished, so we often put goat on across our restaurants. It's got that slightly gamier taste than lamb," he explains. "One of our restaurants might use the legs, another might use the carcass for chops. It's about being creative with the whole carcass."
The animal comes from Cabrito Goat Meat in Devon, run by James Whetlor, a chef turned smallholder who has built the business from scratch since 2012 (see panel).
Hix starts by taking off the shoulder. "It might be chopped up and go into a curry or a pie. Or we might bone and stuff it or even pot roast it," he says. He then removes the breast - "although you might think it would go to waste, you can trim it and roll it," he says - and the legs, which will
be boned, stuffed and roasted, leaving the saddle.
There is a surprisingly good fat coverage around the kidneys. The suet will end up in a suet pudding in one of the Hix restaurants, and the kidneys are skewered on rosemary sprigs with cubes of neck meat.
He then removes the loins from the saddle by running the knife down the spine and leaves the ribs on, allowing him to French trim by scraping the rib bones clean.
Portions of loin, best end cutlets, ribs and saddle fillet join the kidney and neck skewers in the mixed grill. The result leaves Hix with 20 portions of
mixed grill, which will sell for £18 per person, a boned and stuffed leg roast (see panel), which will serve four at £18 per person, and 12 portions
of goat pie or curry at £16 per person - the suet puddings and dumplings from the offcuts are bonuses. This leaves him with a return of £624 from a goat that cost close to £150.
"Some people might regard it as a lesser-value meat than lamb," says Hix, as he surveys his butchered carcass. "But game lovers like me regard it as much superior."
Leg of goat with caper sauce Serves 4
1 boned and rolled leg of goat, about 800g-1kg
2 onions, peeled and halved
1 leek, trimmed, roughly chopped and rinsed
Few thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
600ml chicken stock
For the caper sauce 25g butter
25g plain flour
100ml double cream
100g capers, rinsed in cold water
1tbs chopped parsley
Sea salt and pepper
Put the goat into a saucepan into which it just fits and add the onions, leek, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. Mix the chicken stock with an equal quantity of water and pour into the pan to cover the meat. (If necessary, add a little more water or dilute stock.) Add the salt and bring to the boil.
Skim off any scum from the surface, lower the heat and simmer for 1Â½ hours.
Pour 500ml of the stock into a jug (for the sauce) and leave the goat in the rest of the liquor, covered with a lid, until required. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-based pan, add the flour and stir well. Gradually stir in the reserved stock and bring to the boil. Remove the cooked onions from the goat cooking liquor and add them to the sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes over a low heat.
Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor and whiz until smooth, then pass through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Add the cream and simmer until the sauce has thickened to a coating consistency. Add the capers and parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the goat from the cooking liquid and place on a board. Remove any string and cut the goat into 5mm-1cm thick slices. Arrange on warm plates and serve with the caper sauce.
Stuffed breast of goat
1 breast of goat, boned
Splash of cider or water
2 goat's kidneys
A couple of knobs of butter
1tbs flat leaf parsley, chopped
For the stuffing
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
1tsp chopped fresh rosemary
2tbs olive oil
120g goat mince
100g goat's liver, coarsely minced or chopped
3-4 goat's sweetbreads, cut into small dice
2 goat's kidneys, sinews removed and cut into small dice
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooked spring greens
Preheat the oven to 220Â°C. To make the stuffing, cook the onion, garlic, thyme and rosemary in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes until soft. Transfer
to a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, season generously and mix well.
Lay the breast of goat, skinside down, on a work surface or board and spoon the stuffing down the centre, then roll it up tightly. Tie with string at
3-4cm intervals, season and lay in a roasting tray. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then lower the setting to 180Â°C and cook for another 1Â½ hours. Set aside to rest for about 10 minutes.
Deglaze the roasting tray with a little cider or water and reserve the juices. Meanwhile, blanch the sweetbreads in lightly salted water for one minute, then drain. Remove any sinew or fat and cut the larger ones in half. Remove any sinews from the kidneys and cut into similarsized
pieces. Season both with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter in a heavybased frying pan until foaming. Add the sweetbreads and kidneys and fry for 3-4 minutes over a high heat until
nicely coloured. Add the parsley and remove from the heat.
To serve, slice the breast of goat into 2cm thick slices and arrange on plates, then spoon the offal around the meat and pour over the pan juices. Serve with spring greens and mash. Serve any leftover roast as goat baps or sandwiches.
James Whetlor, Cabrito Goat Meat
"When we started selling kid goats back in April 2012, I hoped that maybe, if we were lucky and Mark took pity on us, we could get on the Hix menus. We didn't really expect Cabrito to end up taking over our lives, emptying our bank accounts and being the beginning of getting kid goat into the mainstream. So it is always exciting to see our product on these prodigious menus and even more so to see these photos of Mark butchering our kid himself. "Kid goats are a similar size to a spring lamb, around 20kg. Getting the carcass size right was one of the initial challenges we faced. I had cooked a few kids before during my years of cheffing in London, but they were small French imports, weighing around 10kg. We found that
at this weight the yield wasn't great, so chefs struggled to make their margins. They also lacked versatility, not offering the menu options of, say, a whole lamb. Any livestock farmer will tell you weight is money.
"Our kids are reared by experienced livestock farmers and this is reflected in the carcasses. They're on milk for the first eight weeks, then on ab-lib straw and creep [the name given to the feed pellets] until they each slaughter weight. Although all our kids are a by-product of the dairy industry and would have in the past been euthanised shortly after birth, we have shown that, with the proper care, these animals make excellent meat goats.
"Thanks to the support of Mark and other chefs like him, goat meat is moving into the mainstream. This is great news for everyone. Chefs get new flavours to play with and a new challenge in the kitchen. The consumer gets more choice and more exciting menu options, and the humble Billy goat gets six months of good life before it becomes someone's dinner, rather than being considered worthless and chucked in the bin."