As I write, my kitchen is filled with the luscious aroma of goat curry warming in the oven. And I have Melissa Leithwood to thank for that.
I met this lovely young woman several years ago when she interviewed me over tea at the Royal York Hotel for her master’s thesis on how chefs grow their businesses sustainably and support local food. Her case study is a leader in this field: well known Toronto chef Jamie Kennedy.
At the time, I was still food columnist at the Toronto Star, a job I held for 18 years until resigning in 2007 to pursue other challenges – this blog, radio, cookbooks and my memoir.
I was also being dragged – and still am – kicking and screaming into the digital world. Because of being techno-challenged, I was impressed with Melissa’s ease as she wielded an almost invisible little device to record our conversation. I was also drawn to her soft-spoken assurance, wealth of knowledge and charming personality.
And so we kept in touch by e-mail and she recently contacted me to say she was in Toronto for the summer. A few weeks ago, we met for coffee at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky in Kensington where we caught up and, among other lively topics, discussed Melissa’s passion for goat.
With a master’s degree in environmental studies and an advanced graduate diploma in business, my fellow foodie and young mentor (she gives me weekly tutorials on how to use Twitter and other things digital) has the perfect combo of knowledge and experience for her latest venture: a doctorate from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., on social media within the context of the food industry.
“I happened upon goat,” she explains, “because there was a funding proposal by the federal government on innovation in the food industry. I stepped in with a proposal about how social media can help generate new markets for goat meat.”
Since she began her study earlier this year, things have taken off at a fast trot. (Okay, enough with the goat puns – I kid you not.)
Goat, the most widely eaten red meat in the world, could not have a more enthusiastic or savvy champion.
“It’s common in Africa, India, South America and the Caribbean,” Melissa says. “And it’s now becoming popular in North America.”
She cites the health benefits of goat meat. “It’s low in fat, calories and cholesterol and high in protein.” Goat is also sustainable, she continues. “Goats are raised outdoors in fields eating grass. They’re extremely finicky and won’t eat corn as cows and other animals will. Eating grass makes the meat lean and high in Omega-3 fatty acids.”
In North America, people are seeking out ethnically diverse food. Goat fits that bill. There are also new cookbooks promoting it.
Melissa, who cooks goat regularly, admits it’s “a challenging meat. It’s easy to either overcook or undercook it.”
Most goat in this country is imported from Africa or New Zealand and is usually sold frozen. However, specialty butchers like Sanagan’s in Kensington Market sell it fresh and sourced locally.
Melissa has turned me on to goat which I had mostly eaten in West Indian roti. I have tried the excellent goat patty at Patty King in Kensington and recently developed this tasty curry.
I used a whole leg of goat for this purchased at my favourite butcher’s Sanagan’s in Kensington Market. They cut it in chunks. bone-in, the ideal way to have it prepared it for this dish. I first created this curry for dinner when my daughter Ruthie came over with her girlfriend Usha. Usha is from Sri Lanka, doesn’t eat beef and likes her food spicy. You can use more or less curry powder and/or curry paste. You can also use hot or mild versions of them as desired. I used Madras curry powder from House of spice in Kensington and Patak’s korma curry paste. Ghee is basically clarified butter and is optional.
This tastes much better made a day or two ahead. I like it served over smashed thin-skinned yukon gold potatoes. Slice and cook them until soft, then drain and add milk heated with butter and salt. Smash with potato masher leaving chunks.
About 4 lb/2 kg bone-in goat meat
4 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
2 large onions, chopped
2 tbsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger root
2 tbsp Madras or other good quality curry powder
2 tbsp curry paste
1 cinnamon stick
398-ml can (about 1 3/4 cups) coconut milk
398-ml can (about 1 3/4 cups)tomatoes, with juices
About 1 cup chicken stock or water
Salt to taste
In large heavy dutch oven or saucepan with lid, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add goat meat in single layer and cook in batches until browned all over.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoon of oil in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook a minute or two. Add ginger root; cook until golden brown and caramelized, about 10 min. Add curry powder, curry paste and cinnamon stick; cook a couple of minutes more or until aromatic. Add to goat mixture. Add coconut milk and tomatoes. Add chicken stock, adding a little more if necessary to cover meat. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, 2 to 3 hours or until goat meat is soft and just falling off bones. Remove bones. Taste; add salt.
Cool curry, then place in fridge until fat congeals on surface. Remove fat.
Serve with mashed or smashed potatoes, rice or noodles, raita (plain yogurt mixed with grated cucumber) and favourite chutneys and/or Indian pickles.
Makes about 8 servings.
For more on goat meat, check these links:
Contribute to this goat recipe contest: http://www.lafujimama.com/2011/06/goat-milk/