Saturday, March 9, 2013

Inspired for Goat

I’ll admit quickly that I love watching My Kitchen Rules Australia.  The casting is brilliant with plenty of characters to love, hate and talk about the next day over morning tea.  For obsessives like me, it reinforces knowledge while also learning something new though it’s also just exciting to see how and what people cook when under pressure.  The question at the back of my mind: could I pull that off?

For MKR Season 4 followers, you’ll know who I’m talking about when referring to the ‘Spice Girls’ - a pair of girls from India and Bangladesh who were very vocal and very critical.  High expectations were therefore created for their ‘Instant Restaurant’ and these were by no means met.  

I was, however, inspired by their mistakes.  They proposed a goat biryani for the main course and the result was unflavoured rice compiled haphazardly with stewed goat, nuts and tomatoes.  While biryani vary from region to region and country to country, it often means a rich curry-like stew cooked separately to rice but served layered together to let flavours mingle shortly before serving.  When I saw the Spice Girls cooking their rice in the microwave, I immediately wished for a more pullao (or pilaf) style preparation.  All those beautiful spices creating a flavourful curry - why not cook the rice in it? 

Luckily, our local Pak n Save often stocks cuts of goat and I had recently stocked up on some key Indian spices (coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, mustard seeds, cinnamon, etc).  Due to my boyfriend recently finding out he is allergic to night shades (i.e. tomatoes, peppers, chillies, etc), I also had to think about how to create the curry without a typical tomato and chilli base.  One thought was to use chicken stock, but I went with the can of coconut milk I had in the cupboard for a rich creamy texture.

Goat needs slow cooking, so the strategy was to braise the meat low and long in the spices and coconut milk in my Staub cocotte (the best French cookware, in my opinion) with rice added towards the end. I’d let it continue to cook in the turned-off oven overnight, in the hopes of awaking to perfectly cooked goat and rice.

Awake I did to lovely fragrant rice with a light creaminess from the coconut milk, melded together by chunks of goat, pumpkin and peas.  Served with linseeds and pumpkin seeds on top for crunch and health, this is how my boyfriend enjoyed the dish.  For myself, I continued adding: slices of spring onion, a dusting of hot paprika and a sprinkle of chilli flakes to create the spice lost in the original preparation, making for a great lunch.

Slow-cooked goat rice

I am by no means fluent in Indian spices so the combination used here could be tweaked by adding or subtracting whatever you see fit.  I hope I don’t offend anyone by my concoction. Also, the addition of pumpkin and peas is simply what I had lying around.  Other appropriate vegetables in addition or replacement could be 3 or 4 sliced zucchini (depending on size) and/or a good handful of top-and-tailed green beans.  With vegetables, I am a “the more the merrier” type.

750g goat pieces (or lamb) for stewing
400ml coconut milk or 400g whole tomatoes + 200ml coconut milk
2 Tbsp oil (I use grapeseed)
1 medium white onion, chopped finely
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely (I prepared these quickly by using a small mini blender) 

5 cardamom pods, crushed to remove seeds (discard husks)
1 tsp each of coriander, cumin and mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
5 cloves
5 black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp hot paprika (optional for those with nightshade allergies)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional) 
1/4 large crown pumpkin, peeled and chopped into rough 2 cm chunks
3/4 c frozen peas
1 c uncooked basmati rice

Heat oven to 150 deg C.  Toast seeds (including cardamom), cloves and peppercorns in dry frypan over medium heat until fragrant. Grind in a mortar and pestle.  Set aside.  
Wash and dry goat pieces with paper towel.  Heat oil in ovenproof casserole dish on medium heat and when hot, add onion, garlic, ginger, coriander root, ground spices, paprika and turmeric.  Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute.  Increase heat to high before adding meat as you continue to stir. Brown meat on all sides.  Add coconut cream and/or tomatoes, plus half a can of water, cinnamon stick and bay leaves.  Bring to the boil.  Stir gently to let flavours mix before transferring to the oven with lid on.  
Check after an hour and a half, stir.  The meat should feel quite tense to the touch at this point.  After another 40 - 50 minutes, add vegetables, coriander leaves and chilli flakes (if using) and return to oven.  30 minutes later, add rice, distributing evenly around the pot and gently combine with the goat and vegetables. There should be enough liquid for the rice to cook if using basmati (however if diverting from the recipe and using a different rice - which is fine - it may need some additional water, depending on the type).  Continue to bake in oven for 30 minutes without reopening and turn oven off.  I made ours in the evening with the intention of letting it sit in the oven overnight however if preparing for dinner, early afternoon cooking is fine.  As goat meat is naturally lean, all it needs to be perfect is enough moisture at a low heat and time (3 - 4 hours ideally) to break down and fall apart easily.  Taste meat and rice for doneness at any point and remove bones if any.  
To serve, freshly chopped coriander leaves and finely chopped green onion are a fine addition, as well as pumpkin and linseeds and/or toasted cashew nuts if you have any lying around.

Enjoy! x

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