Here at Farmdrop, we’re long-term fans of Borough Market street food vendor, Gourmet Goat. Not only is their Cypriot-inspired food incredible, they’re also going the extra mile on ethics and sustainability. We talk to co-founder, Nadia Stokes, on why free-range kid goat needs promoting, what the deal is with rose veal and her goat recipe inspiration.
We set up Gourmet Goat to preserve the food heritage passed on to me by my Cypriot grandmother. Certainly growing up in Cyprus, kid goat was eaten regularly. Although a very obvious characteristic of our cooking is sustainability, the starting point has always been traditional Cypriot flavours. And that’s what sets us apart. We always try to do this according to the seasons, what’s on offer locally, and to make sure we do so in harmony with our environment. Hence the focus on British sustainable ingredients.
When we first started, we came very close to giving up. Then we started getting more and more attention, and a lot more regulars. I’m still humbled by the amount of time people are prepared to queue for our food every day. I wish my grandmother could see it. She would have thought it was just wonderful. On the face of it, you’d think we’re just another Greek street food stall. But we go to extreme lengths to do things sustainably, which is why you would never see us using tomatoes in winter! We also focus on lesser known village-style recipes and we ensure all aspects of our offering is up to standard; we make our own pickles, preserved lemons, hummus, tzatziki, fresh chilli salsa… Our breads are made by a group of refugee women that work at E5 Bakehouse.
When asked why we promote kid goat and veal, I’d say we don’t promote eating it in general terms. We only promote the use of male calves typically described as the by-product of the British dairy industry and – importantly – that have been naturally reared and are free-range. If you consider eating goat or veal, then dairy calves are the ethical choice. For us that’s a really important qualification because not all veal and kid goat meat on the market is the same. The terms rose veal and free-range kid goat is also an important distinction.
Veal has suffered bad press in the past but practices have changed significantly. The RSPCA have promoted the consumption of veal as a sustainable choice as long as it’s rose veal. Rose veal means that they can’t be sold to markets which export calves abroad (and where they’re often treated inhumanely), they have deep straw-bedding to lie on and they’re given a diet of enough iron and fibre to keep them healthy.
Kid goat and rose veal tends to be leaner, softer and more delicate in relation to its older counterparts. One thing we always say is that it has to be sustainable and tasty. It’s unrealistic in my view to promote food purely on ethical merits. There absolutely has to be joy in eating. Always!
My favourite ways of cooking kid goat is what I was brought up on. Our kid goat kofta is a recipe that my grandmother shared with me and it will always have my heart! Especially when it’s finished off simply with lemon juice and fresh parsley. That said, kid goat cooked slowly over several hours in a wood-fired oven, using olive and carob branches, is very special. Not something I can easily recreate at Borough! I also love the way pomegranate molasses caramelises with veal after it’s slow-cooked for hours.
When I first came to the UK, I was disappointed with the vast majority of Cypriot food. I felt it pandered to Western palates. But also – and I was guilty of this growing up – there was almost a sense of embarrassment around eating traditional ‘peasant’ food. Things are definitely changing. I want to fly the flag of some of the more unfamiliar Cypriot flavours using British sustainable ingredients. We have updated the look and feel of some of them, but stuck to key flavours. Our customers certainly seem to enjoy this approach!
What’s the future for Gourmet Goat? We’re still figuring that out. Which sounds silly, but we never expected to do over 1000 dishes a week. We have to make sure that we are operationally sound before we consider getting bigger. But also, we’re not sure we even want to get that much bigger. You lose sight of the important stuff. I think, anyway. I am, after all, from a small village in Cyprus.
Gourmet Goat’s Kid Goat Stifado recipe
About 10 years ago my father gave me a book as a present. It’s a cookbook without any photos, dubious hand-drawn illustrations and no portion sizes in any of the recipes. It is written unapologetically in a strong Cypriot dialect with a glossary at the back to explain many of the words. I suspect the first edition was found in a cave. But there is also beauty to be found in the writing because it’s honest and the flavours and spices are what Cypriot flavours are about. I didn’t at the time realise just how lucky I was to be born and brought up in such a magical place, and because of this the flavours of Cyprus are part of my make-up and now of Gourmet Goat. This is a traditional village version of stifado, best enjoyed at room temperature in the summer with a salad or piping hot in winter. This often appears on our menu at Gourmet Goat in Borough Market and when it does, it sells out within an hour.
Serves 4 hungry people
– 230ml oil (preferably half vegetable oil and half olive oil)
– 1.5 kg free-range diced kid goat meat
– 1.5kg onions, peeled and sliced
– 2 carrots, diced
– 2 cinnamon sticks (each at least 8cm in length)
– 250ml quality red wine vinegar
– 2 bay leaves
– 1 tablespoon tomato purée
– ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
– 375ml water
– salt and pepper, to taste
– fresh parsley, finely chopped
For the pasta
– 1 litre quality chicken stock
– 360g kritharaki pasta (orzo)
– some mild, hard sheep or goat cheese, to grate
Heat the oil in a large heavy pan (big enough to accommodate the stew), then add the kid goat and brown all over. You’ll need to do this in 2 to 3 batches. Remove and set aside.
Turn the heat right down and add the onion, carrots and cinnamon sticks. The onions need to soften but not colour – this should take around 30 minutes. Once softened, turn the heat up, add the vinegar, bay leaves, tomato purée and peppercorns. Stir to combine, turn the heat down, then add the goat and water. Season with a little salt and ground pepper (you can add more at the end). Cover and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the kid goat is very soft. Turn the heat off, but keep covered and allow to rest.
Boil the stock for the pasta and cook as per the packet cooking instructions – I treat it like rice so I use a 2 parts liquid to 1 part pasta ratio. It should take about 13 minutes if using the 100% durum wheat kind.
To serve, spoon some pasta onto a plate, then add generous amounts of stew, fresh parsley and lots of grated cheese. Oh and a very large glass of Pinot Noir.