New kid on the block: Chefs are discovering the amazing succulence and delicacy of billy goat meat

It's the taste of spring, says Sudi Pigott.

"I'm not kidding," says James Whetlor without irony, surveying the kids gambolling around his Somerset fields: "Chefs are going so crazy for kid goat you'd think we'd discovered a new species. Instead we're just making one of the oldest domesticated animals known to man, yet unfamiliar to many chefs, more widely available by turning an absurdly wasteful farming practice into a sustainable one."

While we've all been happily consuming more and more goat dairy produce, few have thought to cut to the quick of its darker side. For Whetlor, a former River Cottage chef, a chance introduction last year at a farmers' market to Jack Jennings got the pair thinking and their company, Cabrito, was born with their first dairy kid purchased from mutual friend and goat's-cheese maker Will Atkinson.

Now, they are buying fortnight-old milk-fed billy goats from 50 small farmers. Initially, the kids are individually bottle-fed twice a day. Once weaned, they are loose-housed and able to roam the fields, but as they don't live on forage alone they are relatively expensive to feed up on a rolled oat/barley mix. "No one has taken on billy kids on this scale so we're learning as we go," he says.

Shockingly, Defra estimates that 30,000 billies are born every year in the UK but most are slaughtered and their carcasses burnt shortly after birth as they are simply too costly and labour-intensive to rear. Explains Whetlor: "It's difficult to persuade people that the best thing you can do for an animal is eat it, but it really is. For an animal to be born and have no value is an ethical disaster. What we are doing is giving it a value."

It's a cachet that chefs at some of Britain's top restaurants are embracing, including St John (their kid pluck faggots with braised onions, swede mash and split peas invariably sell-out), Quo Vadis (Jeremy Lee, one of Cabrito's first customers pronounces kid "a divine treat") and Newman Street Tavern in London and Michelin-starred Aumbry in Manchester, The Pass in Sussex and The Epicurean near Bath and Flinty Red in Bristol besides River Cottage. We're certainly not talking merely traditional goat curry or West Indian stew.

It seems chefs are leaping at the chance to put kid on the menu given its versatility and subtle flavour and the scope for experimentation, especially since they're buying the whole carcass. It's also high in protein and iron, low in cholesterol and lean, with half the fat of skinned chicken. "It's a genuine surprise to find out how delicate and tender the kid meat is," enthuses Mary-Ellen McTague, formerly at The Fat Duck, of Aumbry in Manchester.

"I was expecting it to be tough and have strong flavour, but the texture is wonderful. The difference is as stark as between mutton and lamb. What's thrilling for a chef is that there are few recipe reference points apart from Spanish (Barrafina serves an exceptional Castilian dish of four- hour slow-roast kid in Manzanilla sherry with bay leaf and garlic) and West Indian (as winningly cooked by Michael Smith of Isle of Skye's Three Chimneys on Great British Menu recently) so we can be really creative."

McTague serves the succulent braised shoulder layered with pearl barley and barley grass with lasagne sheets made with goat's milk and agar. For a "snack" she offers air-dried goat ham, cured for 10 days in rock salt, black pepper, cloves, rosemary and dark-brown sugar and hung for six to eight weeks and she is keen to try making other charcuterie, too.

At The Ethicurean near Bath, besides cooking kid in a pressure cooker for a speedier take on a slow braise with cider and lovage, Matthew Pennington uses the kid loin for dry-cured kid bacon infused with cumin, coriander and Scot's pine, inspired by a recipe discovered in Constance Spry. "The taste is beautiful, very delicate, curiously a little like goat's milk. I'm a huge supporter of using Cabrito. They're making a genuinely impassioned point about food waste."

True to his word, and more intriguing still, Pennington also dries and crumbs the liver and uses as a garnish for poached eggs. "It is a quite intense, incredible taste and I love the idea of kid breakfast/brunch."

Matt Gillan of The Pass, another of Cabrito's first customers, admits he'd been longing to cook with kid for years. He likes to hang the carcass himself for a further 10-12 hours to add depth of flavour and has been experimenting with the shoulder in an aromatic tagine 24-hour slow braise with marzipan, smoked almonds and red currants. "I'll change with the seasons. For spring, I'm already thinking goat rump chargrilled with smoked salt, wet polenta, wild garlic and tarragon, perhaps with artichokes and broad beans."

Perhaps most daring are Bristol's Flinty Red's co-proprietors/chefs Matt Williamson and Claire Thomson, who've devised a kid five-course tasting menu including kid kibbeh, neck and loin served chopped and raw with bulgur wheat, pine nuts, lemon and olive oil, kid offal sheftalia and kid agnoletti with lentils. More regularly, Matt favours marinating kid legs in lemon and herbs and char-grilling alongside the liver dusted with cumin and served with yoghurt and freekah. "Mostly, it is an entirely new taste for our customers and it's often a surprise they enjoy it so much."

I have to agree and confess to a certain wariness. My first experience of kid (slow braised saddle with haricot blanc beans) at Newman Street Tavern is a revelation. It is sweet, succulent, melt-in-the-mouth and tender (more so than lamb) with subtle grassy richness. It heralds spring, affirms Peter Weeden who buys entirely milk-fed suckling kid from goat's-cheese maker and affineur Mary Holcroft and delights in the thriftiness of partaking in the whole full cycle of the goat's production using the whole carcass in rotation.

"If a large group all opt for kid, they may find everyone round the table has a different cut poached in aromatics (white wine, onion, celery, leek, fennel, parsley and chervil) plus a plate of ribs glazed with honey and thyme and finished under the salamander. The sweetbreads are incredible, too – very mild and delectable fried with onions, cream and finished in brown stock.

Karam Sethi of Trishna is bemused by kid's new found trendiness.

"It's a traditional meat I was brought up on in India, where it is often used in place of lamb for authentic rogan josh or biriyani. Preferably, we cooked it on the bone to make it especially tender and flavoursome, adding the marrow into the sauce and as a child I used to love sucking the marrow bone with freshly made roti. My supplier, Tariq Halal Meats, always has kid and we've long offered kid seekh kebab on the menu marinated in ginger, garlic, fresh coriander, pungent Indian onion, whole green chillis and cooked on the tandoor."

To date, Cabrito have found selling kid to butchers for home cooks challenging due to its relatively high (more than lamb) price, though Ginger Pig are about to start stocking kid now that chefs have awaken a curiosity and demand.

For novices, Weeden advises salting kid the night before cooking to firm up the meat and help the mild flavour. To avoid the meat tightening and toughening up, poach in a light stock and allow to rest in the liquor or, if roasting, baste well and keep the temperature low. Unlike lamb it should be cooked thoroughly, "pink wobbly kid is not great."

It seems likely we'll be seeing more of the new kid on the block.

Arts and Entertainment
music
News
people

London 'needs affordable housing'

Sport
Robin van Persie leaves the field at the King Power Stadium last Sunday
football
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
tv

Co-creator Mark Gatiss dropped some very intriguing hints ahead of the BBC drama's return next year

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
peopleIan Thorpe addresses Ricky Martin rumours
Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director
film

Mr and Mrs Smith star admits she's 'never been comfortable on-screen'

Arts and Entertainment
Australia singer Iggy Azalea has been attacked by Eminem in a new rap
music

Singer was ordered not to 'blow her rape whistle' in song 'Vegas'

Extras
indybest
News
Myleene Klass
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie x 2

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This charming and contemporary ...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer - £30,000 OTE Uncapped

    £15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor / Administrator

    £13000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines