Under a Capricorn sky

2009-09-19 00:00

LIVING in KwaZulu-Natal fascinates me. The Zulu friends and colleagues I know have a well developed sense of belonging that I don’t. They take the long view: they have been here forever, the land is theirs, they are part of a culture with a long memory, deep roots, old habits and customs.

One of their beliefs is that goats are a conduit between the living and the ancestors.

There is an accepted belief that the dead are not dead and not even absent: no one really goes away or dies.

So the Zulu practice of sacrificing goats is to convey a message to the ancestors, kind of like an SOS, an ancient form of e-mail or SMS.

I’m a bit of a goat man myself. I’ve always regarded the zodiac as a bit of suburban entertainment, but I was born under a goaty night sky — a Capricorn (so were Jesus and Alexander the Great, I might add) and feel an affinity with other sure-footed, ambitious, ledge-conquering, greedy beasts and humans who have an instinctive talent to know when to make that essential escape.

The Afrikaner is apparently fond of saying “die bok is bliksem” (the goat is a bugger). They eat rubbish and are difficult to pen. In my mind these are assets. According to a goat herder I spoke to, the ability goats have to self- medicate is legendary (low vets’ bills). They roam to find plants for their ailments and in return give life-enhancing dairy produce useful for a variety of lactose intolerant allergies affecting children and pregnant mothers.

When it comes to cooking and eating them, though, I’m partial to infanticide. The younger the better, preferably toothless and still suckling — a kid. I first ate it this way on the Algarve where you find restaurants that only serve kids’ meat (the Portuguese being the world’s biggest consumers of goats’ meat).

It was out of this world. It doesn’t taste goaty, but incredibly mild and very close to lamb. Despite being classified as red meat, goat is leaner and contains less cholesterol and fat than both lamb and beef. The hind leg on the bone provides no more than two portions.

Dan Evans is a former London chef now living and working in KwaZulu-Natal.

Recipe

HERE is a simple recipe from Elisabeth Lambert Ortez’s book, The Food of Spain and Portuga l. Serves two nicely or four people on a diet.

INGREDIENTS

• 1 kg or a whole hind of baby goat leg

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 onion, halved and sliced

• 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

• 1 bay leaf

• 3 cloves

• Salt and pepper

• 750 ml (a bottle) full-bodied dry red wine

METHOD

Combine all the ingredients in a casserole pot with enough wine to cover the meat. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and cool in a pre-heated oven at 180 oC or gas mark four for two hours, or until the meat is very tender. It’s a delight. Serve with any potatoes you like and lots of chopped parsley.

P.S. Given that the goat will be inexpensive, you might like to splash out on the superbly suitable wine, Columnella. It’s a Spanish-style wine made in Swartland by renegade and maverick wine-maker, EbenSadie.

 

It doesn’t taste goaty, but incredibly mild and very close to lamb.

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