August 23rd, 2014
Curry Goat is synonymous with Jamaican Cuisine and that of the other English speaking Caribbean Islands. Surprisingly the origin of the dish lies in colonial India and not Africa as one might imagine. Apparently, when slavery was abolished in 1834, the British government sought indentured labour from India to work on the plantations – labourers contracted to work for seven years and many settled in the Caribbean instead of returning home. These indentured workers brought their culture and cuisine with them – curry was a particularly popular method of seasoning and cooking in India. Lamb or mutton curry would have been a favourite at home and therefore, with an absence of sheep, curried goat (referred to as curry goat and never goat curry) became the replacement.
I’ve been thinking of cooking curry goat for a while and as the Notting Hill Carnival is taking place this weekend, it seems fitting to do so now. I’ve looked at and absorbed more than a dozen recipes for curry goat and used the ingredients that appealed to me most. I lived just off Portobello Road for the duration of the 1980s, right in the heart of West Indian Notting Hill and I’ve tried to recreate the type of curried goat I was used to eating at the carnival and Caribbean restaurants in the area. There are quite a lot of recipe variations, but I would imagine, that like those of Italy or Spain, the West Indian recipes vary from family to family, town to town and island to island.
A word of warning – I like hot spices and used a whole Scotch Bonnet chilli pepper including the seeds. If you like something milder, remove the seeds or just use half or quarter of a chilli. Be careful how you handle Scotch Bonnets – don’t rub your eyes or other sensitive areas. I found that three fingers on my left hand (holding the chilli while chopping) became warm and tingled for about three or four hours after preparation. I found the sensation quite pleasant, but if I’d got the chilli in my eye it would have been excruciatingly painful!
Goat isn’t especially easy to find in Britain, but luckily A&F Butchers, near me, in the covered market on Seven Sisters Road (Holloway Road end) sells it for £4.99 a kilo.
If you can’t find goat, lamb or mutton is an acceptable substitute.
Curry Goat recipe (serves 3, preparation time 5 – 6 hours):
2 lb chopped goat (including bones)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
4 – 5 fresh tomatoes (peeled and chopped) – or 1 tin
10 pieces of garlic (chopped)
1 Scotch Bonnet (chopped)
the green tops of 2 spring onions (chopped)
3 medium potatoes cut into 3 pieces each
1 lime (juiced)
1 inch of ginger (grated)
1 pint chicken stock
a small bunch of coriander (cilantro) (chopped)
8 or 9 allspice berries (whole)
4 dessertspoonfuls mild curry powder
4 dessertspoonfuls All Purpose seasoning
1 sprig of thyme
a large splash of olive oil for frying the goat
Almost all the recipes I saw called for Caribbean curry powder, so I bought Dunns River Curry Powder and All Purpose Seasoning (which are available in many London grocery stores and even the large supermarkets). Some recipes suggest blending the vegetables with curry powder to create a wet marinade, others suggest rubbing the meat with the seasoning. I squeezed the juice of half a lime over the goat and rubbed in the curry powder and all purpose seasoning. After rubbing, the goat should be rested for a few hours in the fridge, or ideally overnight. I just came across an interesting recipe which suggests adding a rusty nail – I’m not sure the rust makes any difference, but I might try it next time…
The consensus of opinion proposes that the goat should be fried in oil, until coated and then left cooking on a very low heat for 30 or 40 minutes. If you are worried about it burning, use a cast iron casserole with lid and put it into a preheated oven at 150º C.
Next add about a third of the stock and continue to cook with the lid on for another hour. Stir and repeat this at the end of the hour.
After the goat has had about 2 and 1/2 hours cooking, stir in all the other ingredients, (except the potatoes and the juice of half a lime). Cook for a further 2 hours in the oven at 100º C.
Cook the potatoes in the goat curry for a final hour and squeeze on the juice of half a lime just before serving with rice and peas.
Many years ago I had a Pakistani girlfriend who cooked me coconut kidney beans, as taught to her by her mother. The first time I had curry goat at the Notting Hill Carnival it came with rice and peas, which to my surprise was more or less identical to coconut kidney beans! Therefore, I suspect that the provenance of the dish is in Asia, as per that of curry goat. Gungo or pigeon peas can also be used, but I believe red kidney beans are the most common “peas”.
If using dried kidney beans, these should be soaked and cooked beforehand. I’d intended to use fresh coconut milk, but the shop across the street that sells coconuts, only had small ones that sounded very dry, so I bought a tin of coconut milk – creamed coconut can also be used.
Rice and Peas recipe (serves 4):
1/2 lb basmati rice
1 lb red kidney beans (cooked) or 1 tin
1 medium onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (chopped)
2 spring onions (bruised)
1 Scotch Bonnet (whole)
1 sprig of thyme
16 allspice berries (ground)
1 tin of coconut milk
200 ml water
a large splash of olive oil for frying the onion
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the basmati rice in a seive to remove some of the starch.
Fry the onions in olive oil until they become soft. Stir in the garlic and rice, then pour on the milk and water. Add all the other ingredients (except the kidney beans) and bring the the liquid up to simmering. Make sure that you use a whole Scotch Bonnet pepper with no holes in it. Any holes will make the rice blisteringly hot, whereas the whole un-pierced pepper adds a subtle flavour, not heat. Ideally the mild rice should be a counterpoint to the spicy hot curry.
When simmering, stir the liquid gently, put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes. Next gently stir in the beans and cook for a further 5 minutes. Allow the dish to sit without heating for a final 5 minutes. Before serving remove the pepper, thyme and spring onions.