The latest arrival at Gourmet Goat: exceptional mutton paired with Eastern Med flavours
Most of the time, the course of deciding what to make for lunch/ dinner runs something like this: decide what you fancy, flick through a recipe book and browse online, head to a shop or market, buy ingredients. Sometimes, though, we come across an ingredient that looks and tastes so good, the process is flipped on its head. Such was the case when Nadia and Nick Stokes tried the mutton now used in the latest dish to hit Gourmet Goat: slow roast mutton and aubergine with preserved lemons. When they tried the meat, they were simply blown away.
“The reason this dish exists is because we were particularly inspired by the meat and by the farm,” says Nadia. “They’re one of few farms in the UK that do this specific cross-breed of Iron Age sheep, which is bred solely for its meat. The flavour is unique, not least because they are reared outdoors year-round, on organic pasture.”
Village Farm, the small-scale farm in south Devon from which Gourmet Goat gets its lamb, hogget and mutton, is certified by the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, meaning the herd is 100 per cent pasture fed (in contrast to the run-of-the-mill ‘grass fed’ label, which only requires a diet that’s 60 per cent actual grass) and they’re allowed to grow at a natural rate, in sync with the seasons.
Wild flowers and grasses
The farm’s location, on headland jutting out over the English Channel, makes for distinctly salty pasture, with an ever-growing abundance of wild flowers and grasses—all of which lends this meat a delicious and highly distinct flavour profile. “When I first got a sample, I instinctively thought: mutton, that’s a strong flavour, I’ll try a tagine. I completely ruined it,” laughs Nadia. “The meat has this amazingly delicate flavour that doesn’t stand up to such bold flavours.”
She went back to the drawing board: what goes well with lamb and mutton, but will allow its exceptional flavour to shine through? “Cinnamon is a very traditional pairing, as is lemon—the citrus cuts through its richness,” Nadia explains. “It so happened we had recently preserved a bunch of lemons we got from the Market because they had begun to turn, so it made sense to use them.
“I also really wanted to capture the beautiful, herbaceous nature of the meat, and a really traditional herb that’s used with lamb in the eastern Med is the lesser-known marjoram, which has got a similar flavour to oregano and thyme—we concluded that would be the best way of doing that. We use an Egyptian marjoram which we get from Spice Mountain and it works perfectly.”
Rich and silky
The mutton (“because that’s what they had available immediately—as we come into lamb season that will change”) is minced and slow roasted in the oven for around two hours till it’s melt-in-the-mouth tender, along with aubergine, tomatoes and preserved lemons, before being sprinkled with cinnamon and marjoram and dished up with Gourmet Goat’s signature salad—bulgur pilaf with pomegranate seeds which pop with sweetness, and a crunchy Eastern Mediterranean-style slaw—alongside rich and silky homemade hummus: “It gives this really luxurious feel to it.”
Not surprisingly, its first few weeks on the stall have been a soaring success. “Usually it’s quite difficult to get our customers to try something new, but not on this occasion; it’s done better than any other dish we’ve introduced,” smiles Nadia. “People are already coming back for it. Long may it continue.”