Milk, Curry, and Goats

April 13, 2011

Photo by publicenergy

While grocery shopping at Whole Foods this weekend, I spotted Meeru Dhalwala, co-owner with husband Vikram Vij, of Vij’s and Rangoli. As I previously mentioned, Vij’s is considered “easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world,” and Rangoli is the bistro next door. I love how flavourful Indian cuisine is. I think it’s a common misconception that Indian food has to be spicy (spicy meaning heat). Some of the best Indian food I’ve had was chockfull of spices but packed very little heat. Instead, it had a complex and rich medley of flavours. Curry is one of my favourite foods to make and eat. In fact, although I generally avoid nightshades, I draw the line at spices (e.g. paprika and cayenne), which are quite common in curries. So I was a little excited to have spotted Meeru. I overheard her saying that she was there to pick up some dairy for one or their dishes, but that her 2 daughters drink raw milk. I thought that was pretty cool – if you’re going to drink milk, make it raw. I wonder where they source their raw milk. It’s illegal in Canada, but there’s a loophole via cowshares. The nearest cowshare is in Chilliwack, Home on the Range, which has been in and out of operation due to authorities persistently attempting to shut it down. Although if anyone can source raw milk, I’m sure it’s these two restauranteurs.

Meeru and Vikram recently came out with a follow-up cookbook to their awesome “Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine.” It’s called Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking. While the first cookbook focused on restaurant-style dishes (mmm… lamb popsicles), this one showcases home-style cooking, which is more up Meeru’s alley. Admittedly, there aren’t that many paleo-friendly recipes in it (there’s more in the first cookbook). Meeru gravitates toward vegetarian dishes, which often contain legumes. But there are still some great recipes in there, and I like cookbooks, especially local ones, so I’m happy to have it as part of my collection.

At the Vancouver Home and Garden Show last year, I watched a cooking presentation by Meeru. There were 2 highlights for me. One was when an audience member asked about healthy oil alternatives to ghee. Meeru explained that she has a friend who researches oils, and that ghee is in fact very healthy. That’s one of the reasons I love Indian food – the prevalence of ingredients like ghee and coconut. The other was learning more about goat meat, which although I’ve tried once (it’s different, but tasty), I wasn’t all that familiar with.

Some say that goat meat is the  most widely consumed meat in the world (there’s some controversy as to which meat should get that distinction, with pork being the main competition). Goat meat is also said to be the leanest meat. What really stuck with me though was a comment Meeru made about not having to worry about goats being improperly fed – apparently goats are quite fussy and if you don’t take care of them properly, they’ll simply die. From Vij’s at Home:

“According to Susan Schoenian, a sheep and goat specialist at the University of Maryland, goats are less likely to be confined (they don’t do well), less likely to be fed any grain (it’s not profitable), not implanted with growth promoters or fed antibiotics (it’s not legal) and not castrated (ethnic buyers prefer intact males).

Furthermore, goat meat has more iron and protein and much less cholesterol and saturated fats than other meats. Wes and Donna Gilmore of Painted River Farm, a cow and goat farm on Barnston Island in British Columbia, told us that any extra fat from food sources accumulates on a goat’s lungs and heart and basically kills it. So, goats cannot be fattened quickly or unnaturally because when you try to feed them anything their bodies don’t naturally take, they die. Goat meat, also known as chevon, is actually one of the cleanest, healthiest meats available”

Quite a difference from, say, feedlot beef… Seems like goats’ lack of resilience is what gets them better treatment. And that results in healthier meat on our plates. Of course, I’m disregarding the dig at saturated fats – I’m just all for the animal not being fattened unnaturally.

Why is goat meat not as popular in North America and Europe? Meeru and Vikram speculate that it’s because 1) goat takes time to cook, 2) it’s usually served with the bone in, and 3) it doesn’t come in any tenderloin or steak form. Honestly, my only problem with eating goat meat is how darn cute goats are. And a young goat being called a “kid” certainly doesn’t help…

I have, however, been meaning to incorporate more goat meat into my diet, mostly for variety. Curry seems like a fantastic way of doing that. And by the way, just like curry doesn’t have to be spicy, it also doesn’t have to be served with rice. I enjoy mine more as a sort of stew. I think I’ll have to try a goat curry soon. Vij’s at Home has some delicious looking goat curry recipes, but all are tomato-based. I’ll have to track a different one down, source some goat meat, and post the results…

Know any great goat curry recipes?

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