Chef James Cochran: ‘People need to broaden their minds about eating goat’

Chef James Cochran: ‘People need to broaden their minds about eating goat’

Lauren Taylor catches up with last year’s Great British Menu winner who’s on a mission to make us love goat meat.

When’s the last time you picked up some goat meat on your way home for a curry, or slow cooked shoulder dish? Unless you’ve grown up eating goat meat, it can feel slightly alien to consider it for a midweek meal – although it shouldn’t.

Chef James Cochran is on a mission to change any misconceptions about goat meat, and show everyone how delicious it is. As well as his restaurant 1251, in London, he’s just opened a street food joint GOAT in Boxpark Croydon, and is set to present his food at major meat festival, Meatopia (August 30 – September 1).

Cochran is best known for his stint on BBC Two’s Great British Menu last year, during which he was crowned ‘champion of champions’ for his mushroom dish ‘Ceptional’, a tribute to NHS staff who cared for his late mother. He also created a huge platter of different cuts of expertly cooked goat for a main course dish.

(Jessica Jill Photography/PA)
(Jessica Jill Photography/PA)

We caught up with him to talk all things meat, and how so much goat is going to waste as a result of the structure of the dairy industry…

Tell us about your new venture, GOAT

“The whole concept is street food; there’s a flatbread with a jerk spiced goat shoulder and it’s really got some West Indian kind of vibes, with scotch bonnet jam, pineapple and mango salsa, coconut, tamarind yoghurt, corn nuts and coriander cress.

“In my restaurant 1251, the food I do every day is not the food I want to eat every day. For me, it’s all about comfort food – buttermilk chicken is my favourite dish, and goat because I can really connect to it and have that nostalgic feel.

“I’m half West Indian, my mum’s from a small island called Saint Vincent, and my dad’s from Scotland [although Cochran grew up in Whitstable, Kent]. Goat is a widely known West Indian ingredient, and so is jerk spice, so we basically spice up a goat shoulder – and we use nanny goats as well.”

Why aren’t we eating much goat meat?

“[What] the general public want in street food is going to be burgers, fried chicken, Asian food, Indian – goat is never going to be the biggest seller. Why? It’s to do with the way we’re raised. It really stems from past generations of our families where we’re brought up on chicken, lamb, beef, and pork.

“How many people do you know who eat goat on a regular basis, when it’s in abundance? Or mutton? or hogget?

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Out in the streets they call it.......#goat

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Why should we eat more? 

“It’s a beautiful piece of meat. For me, it’s like lamb that tastes more gamey, and if you respect it properly, like any kind of meat, you’re going to get a beautiful product at the end of it.

“Sustainability is huge and we have this really beautiful meat which is basically a by-product, because we want goats’ milk, so we’re literally slaughtering these animals [and not eating them].

“People do need to broaden their minds and realise we have this beautiful meat on our doorstep. I don’t understand why people are a bit skeptical of it, because what’s the difference between lamb, goat, pig, chicken? What’s your perception against goat?”

What’s your earliest memory of eating goat?

“I used to go to the island of Saint Vincent before I could walk, so I have really cool memories of going there, probably up to when I was 22 or 23. I was introduced to goat at an early age, lots of roti breads, a lot of curried goat.

“In the West Indian culture, in a small village or shanty town, they would get a whole goat and that would feed the whole village, really – and everyone would congregate in this place every Friday night and we used to go there. That’s when I got really into goat.

“My mum really wanted me to learn West Indian cultures, so if we weren’t going to the West Indies, we’d be going to Brixton or Notting Hill Carnival, because I came from Whitstable – so it was very eye opening, I learned a lot.”

So how do we cook goat at home?

“Goat is not as accessible at the moment, you don’t see goat in supermarkets. My vision is to make it accessible – getting it into supermarkets would be a dream.

“I would say to most people, ‘Treat it like lamb’. If you were going to do a slow braised lamb shoulder where you may cook it at 150 degrees for four or five hours, treat a goat shoulder exactly the same. You’d bone a leg of lamb out, barbeque it – completely fine [for goat too]. From a rack to a loin to a belly, you’re laughing. And it’s better.”

And what are you cooking at Meatopia?

“At Meatopia in Dublin I represented goat, so we decided to mix it up for London – I’m doing barbecued lamb with bread and butter pickles, smoked yoghurt, crispy onions and paprika on homemade flatbread.

“I’m using a leg of salt marsh lamb from Kent, which has a beautiful flavour coming through, and using sea herbs and marsh herbs. After World War Two when we couldn’t afford butter, we used pickles on our bread – and bread and butter pickles taste like the gherkins in McDonald’s – a pimped up version!”

Meatopia will see chefs from around the globe serving up all manner of meat, holding cooking demos and talks, alongside live music. For the full chef line-up and to book tickets visit meatopia.co.uk. 

- Press Association

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