Before we start its probably best if I assume none of you know what ‘Goatober’ is. You can read up on it on this website here and in the New York Times here. I know its that New York Times article again but I promise you, I will never get bored of seeing it…
And a further bit of housekeeping, Goatober was generously sponsored by Tabasco and Big Green Egg so their names will appear fairly regularly. Their contribution made Goatober not a only possible but much more delicious.
The question of to how best to write up Goatober 2018 has been bothering me. Given that it was 8 countries in 28 days, with an event almost every night and with lots of different organisations involved, I want it to all make sense on the page. I thought about breaking it up into 3 parts. Uk and Ireland, Europe and the USA but I think it would lose the sense of momentum as it jumped from country to country out of sync, so I’ve settled on just doing it in chronologically. That does mean however, that the ‘ month long celebration of goat meat’ that is Goatober really starts in September and ends in November but I’ll explain why as I go. It also means that I’ll have to do some explaining of who all the relevant people and organisations are as they are introduced but stick with me, there are free recipes at the end….
First up in Manchester on September 30th at Mary Ellen McTague’s new-ish gaff, The Creameries….
I’ve known Mary Ellen (inexplicably she has a Wikipedia page for about 6 years. She was one of our first customers back in the grim days of driving 2 goats from Devon to Manchester in a clapped out old Ford Escort Van when I was desperately trying to get Cabrito off the ground. That was when she had the Aumbry and she has taken Cabrito with her, wherever she has gone but now has settled at The Creameries. And The Creameries is very lovely indeed.
I roped in Iain Devine, also known as the Drunken Butcher , to cook a course. We had been friends on social media for a while and in return for the offer of a few beers and a box of goat he was keen to be involved. Its worth mentioning that neither Iain or Mary Ellen made any money out this event. They do it as a favour to me and because they believe in the effort to end the ‘billy goat problem.’ I am very grateful for the work and support.
The format with these things is that I do little bit of ‘goat chat’ before everyone starts eating, explaining the idea behind ‘Goatober’ and the reason why something like Goatober is required in the first place. If you’ve read this far I’m assuming you are aware of the ‘billy goat problem.’ If not, you can read Tim Haywards excellent Financial Times article about what we do.
Then comes the food. Mary Ellen worked at the Fat Duck for a few years and it shows. Not in the ways that can make 3 star food alienating and overbearing but in the finesse and
beautiful presentation. Frankly she put me and Iain to shame who, I’m sure Iain wouldnt mind me saying, are a bit more belt and braces.
I promised earlier some free recipes to persuade you to read my blog in the first place and I am a man of my word so here is the recipie of the dish I made at Goatober MCR. With the Tabasco element, the more I’ve worked with it, the more I’ve come to think of it as an ingredient rather than a condiment. The chipotle one in particular is a brilliant way of getting heat and smoke into marinades and in this recipe it’s perfect.
The recipe for my Manchester dish is here.
From Manchester it was straight to London. The following day was the Sustainable Restaurant Awards dinner and I had 200 pastila to serve. The SRA awards were in The Stables Market Camden, just a few minutes walk from my first proper cooking job at The Lansdown in Primrose Hill, about 125 years ago… These pastilas are great. They look like a massive faff but if you buy the pastry its just making a sauce then rolling them up, which is great fun and very rewarding in the end. They also taste amazing. More or less Tabasco, depending on how fiery you want it. The recipe for these is in the book. If you want that one, you’ll just need to buy a copy.
I also got to cook them in a pretty funky oven pizza oven with a spinning stone base. Ive never seen one before can can only lament not having one back in my pizza chefs days. Perhaps my arms wouldn’t be so dotted with burn scars! I posted a video of it on my Instagram feed
The next day, October 2nd, was the official Goatober launch night at the Jugged Hare.
I have an enormous soft spot for the Jugged Hare and the ETM Group. When we first started out the were big supporters of our and some months it was only the regular payments from them that kept us going. They have also always supported Goatober and no moaned to much when the militant vegans turn up, shouting through megaphones at the windows or draw in chalk all over the pavements.
The launch night is where we wheel out the big guns and I call in favours, beg and bribe chefs to cook on their night off. The format here is friendly competition. Each chef does a dish and the diners get to score each one out of ten in different categories like originality and presentation.
This year we had Elizibeth Allen-Haigh who I have known since she was cooking at The SmokeHouse. In January 2017 she did a residence at Carousel. The amuse bouche was a Tempura Nori, Apple purée, oyster and Sambat. It was the best thing I ate in the whole of 2017. She is a serious talent. If want to see what she is up to the moment her website is here.
Joining Elizabeth was Sam Bryant and Alicia Specjalna who at the time were running the Coal Rooms in Peckham. They have since moved on to work on a new project which Im not allowed to tell you anything about but am very excited to see come to life next year. Sam and Alicia were fashionable late, which rose to the level of mild panic for me because at 7pm they still hadn’t arrived. As it turns lout there are Two Jugged Hare’s in Central London and the Uber (Ill blame the Uber, Sam don’t worry?) took them to the wrong one. They had got into the kitchen and unpacked their stuff and wondered where everybody was before they released they were in the wrong place…. What the staff at The Jugged Hare on Vauxhall Bridge road thought was going on Ill leave to you, dear reader to ponder.
The third chef was Yascha Oosterberg who was joining us from Rijks restaurant in Amsterdam. Joris Bijdendijk, The Executive Chef at Rijks has been working on the ‘billy goat problem’ in The Netherlands for a while and for the last few years has run a goat menu over Easter to help shine a light on the waste in the Goat dairy system. There will be more on the work going on in The Netherlands later in this post, but back to The Jugged Hare… One of the exciting things about getting all these chefs together is the different styles and influences they bring and apply to the final dish they present. Yascha is unique in Goatober history for bringing tweezer. Tweezers. The bar had been raised.
The Jugged Hare head chef and former Goatober Launch Night Champion, Stephen Englefield was the forth chef and, for the first time, I threw my hat in the ring. As you can see from the Menu. The standard was high. The standard was high and I came…last. ? The vindaloo recipe is here.
Service was smooth and it is always very lovely to see all the chefs helping each other out to get the dishes out in good time. One of the things I miss most about cooking full time is the camaraderie of a kitchen brigade. Its just a shame we didn’t have more tweezers. Not that it mattered because Yascha romped home, the winner by miles. His dish, the rendeng tart which shows up on the Rijks menu from time to time, is a stone cold classic and outrageously pretty. Tweezers eh? Who knew?
From The Jugged Hare, I drove home for a night. I needed to pick some goats up the next day and drop them around town. Goats are yet to master delivering themselves. Much work to do..
After a day of delivering I had an event at Palatino. Palatino is one of the Stevie Parle stable and had been on my list of places to visit but Id just not got round to it. The menu was an absolute cracker. Anyone who knows me, know that Italian food is my true love. Yeah sure, I flirt with French food, (who doesn’t?) but in the end Ill always come home to Italian. Its the coffee and the ice cream. French coffee. I will never understand how the French, who do so much right, get coffee so wrong. There is a 320 mile border between the two. How hard can it be to learn? Anyway, back to Palatino.
There was no ‘goat chat’ or competition this time. This event was organised just to support Goatober and I am grateful for that. It was also nice just to sit down and eat some terrific food. The highlight for me was the Kid chop Milanese. I think we will be seeing that dish again when I do my list of the best things I ate in Goatober 2018. That said the Pappardelle and my love for pasta, ran it a close second. I eat out a lot and its not hard to find Italian influenced food in London. I think Palatino is the best Italian food I’ve had in London. Its definitely the best value. The River Cafe is good but the starters cost the same as three courses at Palatino. Whenever I’m in Italy , as I am later in this blog, I am reminded of how simple Italian food is and how thats the thing we often miss in translation. Palatino is confident enough in its own offering to do it just right.
From Palatino it was a drive to Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel. The first event of the European part Goatober was in Den Bosh in the Southern Netherlands the next evening. Unfortunately I was late leaving so I missed my slot on the train and had a 3 hour wait in the deserted terminal. Not the best start to the European leg as it meant I wouldn’t get to the Hotel until about 6am. I did in fact arrive just as the Receptionist got there to start her shift and she thought maybe I had been sat on the doorstep all night.
Den Bosch or ‘s-Hertogenbosch to give it its full name is a beautiful town of about 150,000 people with open squares, canals and those wood panelled house that make everything look like a filmset. The centre of the town is dominated by a St Johns Cathedral which was founded in the 13th Century and has a spire reaching 73 meters. Inside that spire is a very large bell. That bell chimes on the hour every hour from 9am. It is very loud and is about 100 metres from the hotel room I was in. So it didn’t get a lot of sleep, annoyingly.
Here is probably a good place to explain why and how I’ve ended up doing some work in Europe. Back in 2015 I was contacted by a Dutch vet called Margit Groenevelt. She had been working at Bristol University in Langford where we had killed some goats, so she had heard about the work we were doing. She had also heard about the Food Heroes project which was working to try and reduce the number of kids being euthanised in Europe. She invited me to a sheep and lamb conference a few weeks later, where I met some of the UK goat dairy industry leaders. At that stage I was still more of a thorn in the side of the goat dairy industry than a part of it, but it was an important set of introductions.
The following summer I got a call out of the blue form Margit. She was on a billy goat rearing farm in France. Now in the UK there are 100,000 milking nannies. They are split equally with 50% in the commercial industry, the brands you see on the supermarket shelves. The other 50% are on the smaller dairy farm models, the kind that make cheese on site and small holders. That means until recently the UK would have been euthanising, as a conservative estimate, 55,000 kids. In The Netherlands there are 350,o0 milking nannies and in France there are about 1,000,000. So the problem in mainland Europe is much more acute. However, the laws are slightly different. Under NL and FR law they are not allowed to euthanise all the billies, which sounds like a great idea. The problem is that the solution they have come up with is, perhaps, worse than euthanising them. The kids are taken from the farms they are born on after about 10 days. They are taken to dedicated rearing farms that take kids from lots of different dairies. The problem is that each individual farm will have its own bacterial ecosystem that kids born into will have a natural resistance to. When you take loads of kids, from loads of farms and mix them all together, the kids come up against strains of bacteria to which they have no defence. The mortality rate on these farms is about 40%. That is absolutely diabolical. In any other system a farm with a 40% mortality rate would be shut down. The 60% that are left behind won’t be in tip top shape either. And the kicker is the pre-emptive antibiotics that are pushed into these animals. That we as a species are risking the effectiveness of antibiotics by using them pre-emtivly in livestock is one of the stupidest things we have done. It was from one of these farms that Margit called me.
A few months later I flew over to Amsterdam to meet a group of people who were connected to the EU funded ‘Food Heroes’ project. The project was working on ‘adding value’ to the billy kids. I have over the last 2 years been working on the project bringing together farmers, chefs, restaurants and other commercial partners. Goatober fits the brief of the project brilliantly and we had a small event in 2017 in Eindhoven Dutch Design Week to introduce the concept to the Food Heroes partners. After that success we took it to The Netherlands, France and Germany, under the Food Heroes’ banner in 2018. The project is managed by a farming association called ZLTO who have 15,000 members across The Netherlands.
So that is why I was being woken up by an unnecessary loud cathedral bell in Den Bosch at 9am. The event I was co-hosting was in an old animal feed factory. The local government had come in, cleaned it up, made it safe and rented it out at a cheap rate to start ups and charities which made it a little community of innovation and great coffee. Its the sort of place that would be bulldozed and sold off for luxury flats in the UK. I wasn’t really doing any cooking at this one but I did do a pre-starter of Kid lion carpaccio. The real cooking was being
done by Anne and Jorn of Delekkereman, a small catering company who also make their own charcuterie in an old winch room on the site. The guests at the dinner were journalists, goat industry members and other interested parties invited by ZLTO. We also used it as a launch night for my book. There is a Dutch translation! After a bit of ‘goat chat’ from me and a small presentation about the Dutch goat situation we sat down for 5 courses. I will spend a lot of time typing out ‘and I am very grateful’ in these blog posts but when I sit down to events like this its almost overwhelming. People I don’t know have picked up on the idea of solving the ‘billy goat problem’ and using Goatober to do it. I mean, its pretty amazing. The diners didn’t just leave with a good dinner and plenty of booze inside them, they took a goody bag with a copy of my book, information on where they can buy goat meat in NL and information behind the Food Heroes project.
By the end I was pretty tired. Tired but happy. I didn’t hang around because of that flippin’ bell and I had a long drive to France the next day. The Goatober Road Show was heading to Nantes for the Nantes Food Forum The French part of the Food Heroes project is the bit that has given me the most to think about. French food feels monolithic. Deep cultural roots that are central to the identity of the nation. And no history of eating goat. Thats why I’ve always thought France will be the hardest of all the European nations to convince goat is where its at. Take a look in your copy of Larousse Gastronomique. My copy off Larousse has 1350 pages. Goat and Kid get a paragraph each and no recipes. Rhubarb has three recipes. I feel like I’m up against it. But I am not disheartened and neither are the French group of ‘Food Heroes’ who have me doing an on stage interview on the Saturday and cooking goat on the Big Green Egg at the farmers market own the Sunday. Before that I had to get there and its 513 miles.
I am yet to find a bit of France I don’t like. Nantes is so lovely. The people I was working wth have told me that its benefiting from young people not being able to afford living in Paris, moving there. A bit like Bristol. Its also famous (or infamous) for, during the revolution, tying 500 royalists to a barge in the middle of the Loire and sinking it, killing them all. I liked Nantes. My first appointment was a dinner at Chez Franklin. for a goat dinner (me eating goat is going to be a recurring theme of this blog) with some French goat farmers who wanted to know more about the Goatober project, a few of the French ‘Food Heroes’ partners and Sophie Espinoza, who is head of the goat dairy farmers union in France, who is a useful contact to have. This last name on that list points toward part of the idea behind the whole of Goatober. Driving round Europe talking about and cooking goat is fun and it has an impact (however big or small) on those people that hear what the events have to say and getting their minds changed when they eat goat for the first time. The real value however is in the people you meet and the personal connections you make and you cant plan for that. Goatober, the 2018 version at least, was a massive punt that doing all these events would help make connections across Europe and would lead to the creation of a sustainable goat meat industry. One that would improve animal welfare, improve farmers work places as well as incomes and eradicate the need for pre-emptive antibiotics. When you have goals like that, you need the odd punt.
The on stage interview was with Camille Labro. Camille has been a food journalist in France all her professional life. She had no idea of the fate of the billy goats in the goat dairy industry. I don’t say this as a criticism, until I did started doing this I had no idea and I’d worked as a chef my entire working life. I say it to further illustrate how well hidden this problem is and how little we know about the food system.
Sunday morning we set up on the banks of the Loire for the farmers market. It was so wet and so cold it almost made me question my French retirement plan. Manchester weather isn’t meant to happen in France. Once we had tied down the Marquee, we fired up the Big Green Egg. The quality and consistency of French dairy billies is frankly, all over the place. They don’t get the care and attention they need. One of the aims and challenges of Goatober is to change the mindset of the European farmers from looking at the kids as a second rate meat animal and not worth the effort, to an asset worth investing in. This process takes a lot of different forms but todays effort is to get a few farmers to help cook and serve the meat so they can see its potential and peoples reaction to eating it. I know this all sounds like very small beer compared with 1 million billy kids being euthanised but where else are you meant to start other than to persuade a small group of french goat farmers to buy into the project and build out from there?
All looking very Meatopia
As we were a bit short on time for smoking, I boned the legs and roasted them off. They could be rested and cut to order while the shoulders chugged away on the Big Green Egg. Service was like a mini version of Meatopia and the farmers, who had been roped in to help out did brilliantly, given they are much more used to growing than cooking. Taking the bad weather into account the turn out was good and we sold two whole goats. We even had a visit from the mayor, who was interested in the opportunity the billy kid market offers to farmers. This is where the ‘Food Heroes’ project involvement in Goatober really shows its value. Goatober’s work can be backed up and facilitated by government institutions. Goatober would struggle to reach and galvernise lots of different farms spread across the French countryside. I wouldn’t even know where to start. The project brings all that to us and accelerates its effectiveness.
I left early the next morning as I had a dinner date in London to keep with Jack and Rory from The Billy Tannery . Another 8 hour, 475 miles drive but with James Cochran‘s cooking to look forward to, I didn’t mind at all.
Jack called me a few years ago and asked what I did with the skins from the goats. I had been looking for a solution but couldn’t get one to work. They are expensive to process and to be honest, it wasn’t really my focus. Jack wanted to turn them into leather. Fast forward a few years and Jack and Rory having built a Tannery, designed products and had a really successful crowd-funder, have a range of beautiful bags and accessories made from the skins of our goats. Its deeply satisfying for me to see the skins become something so wonderful.
I had been trying to get onto James Cochran’s menu for a while but it didn’t happen until he opened his new place in Islington, 1251 Fortunately for me that coincided with James being on Great British Menu and getting his goat main course, ‘Under The Knife’ to the banquet and being crowned champion of champions. Handy timing. James is one of those chefs that fuses their cultural heritage with classic cooking techniques to make food that is wholly unique to them. It is one of the elements that makes British cooking so exciting at the moment. You can see James talking about 1251 here.
Incidentally, goat has a fantastic record on ‘Great British Menu’. In 2013 Micheal Smith won with his Tagine. In 2015 Matt Gillian, using our kid, took his goat main ‘Teaching and Preaching’ to the banquet and was crown champion and now James Cochran.
James was putting on a little goat dinner, upstairs at 1251, to support Goatober. The details and menu are here. It is reflective of the way the new generation of chefs think that in the article is a reference to food waste and what Goatober is doing about it in the goat dairy system. Chefs are in a position to make a positive impact on the food system and to have influence over the buying public by promoting suppliers and growing methods that have a less negative impact on the planet. Chefs championing sustainability is another one of the brilliant changes in the industry to have occurred in the last 20 years.
After a little bit of ‘goat chat’, a catch up with Jack and Rory and five delicious courses it was time to get home to Devon for the first time in almost a week. And with that, the end of this instalment of the blog. Thats the first week of Goatober covered, just four more to go. The next post will start in Germany and end in either New York or a laundrette in Clapham…
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions about any of it you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
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