First things first. This is not going to be a pretty blog post. As a meat eater I decided it was important for me to experience something like this at some point, to see if I could face the reality of the process of getting meat to my plate. Vegetarians and animal lovers, proceed with caution.
Thanks to Julia Parsons (A Slice of Cherry Pie) and James Brewer (Back to the Chopping Board) for coordinating this food blogging event to honour the late Keith Floyd. I was heartbroken when the original deadline passed and I had not yet gotten access to electricity and internet to post this while WWOOFing on Rusinga Island in West Kenya, but was delighted to see the deadline extension. Huzzah!
This post is dedicated to my Dad, with whom I used to watch Keith Floyd's culinary adventures around the world. We'd always have a good chuckle at his "wing it and swig it" approach to cooking and life. I'd like to think that Dad watches me undertake my many a hare-brained adventure with a similar bemusement.
Finally, this goat feast was very much a team effort. Thanks to Michael Odula for helping us source the goat, Samuel Odula for showing Babs how to kill it with minimal suffering, our fellow volunteers Dan and Cyrill for first raising the idea, co-financing this whopping 1,500 Kenyan shilling (~£13) enterprise, and being amazing comrades-in-arms throughout our stint. Finally thanks to the kids -- Michael Jr, Tanya, Gloria et al for being fabulous team players on the day.
So. Our fellow WWOOFer Dan walks into our living room on Rusinga Island in West Kenya one day and says "Hey I heard these WWOOFers back in July bought a whole goat and BBQed it. Are you interested in us pitching in to get one too?"
I say "YES", probably about as fast as I said yes when Babs proposed. Just possibly a wee bit faster.
And then Babs ups the ante (as he does): "Yes, but only if we buy a live goat and I get to kill the goat myself."
The week leading up to feast day was surprisingly unhyped. We simply agreed on a budget for a medium-sized goat and our homestay host Michael Odula spent a morning and an afternoon asking around if anyone in the neighbourhood had a goat from their flock for sale. He appointed his youngest son Samuel to help us through the kill.
D-Day. Our goat had arrives before breakfast. We went out to find it chilling out and snacking on a bush. Samuel reckons it weighs about 50kg. I get Babs to pose next to it for perspective.
Samuel takes the goat out to a stone plateau behind the Odula house and trusses it up. Under his guidance, Babs cuts deep into the goat's throat with Dan's camping knife. The key thing here is to cut right through the jugular. It's a steady hand and a sharp blade, and the goat stops moving in less than 3 minutes. There's less of a blood spurt than we expected.
Being behind the camera provides a strange sense of detachment but it's still a fairly intense experience watching my first food-animal kill. I wasn't sure if I would feel nauseous (I didn't) or feel huge pangs of guilt (I didn't either, given the goat had lived outdoors all its life, had a quick death, and we were damn well going to eat it nose to tail.)
It could have been scarier. Had we been with a more traditional tribe, they would have cut a pouch of skin under the goat's neck to catch the blood, then drink it as part of the ritual. I'm not ready to go that native.
A moment of solemn silence, and then Babs unties the goat in preparation for the next task...
...Skinning it. This requires some help from Michael Jr (back) and a neighbour (front) to hold up the legs while gentle but firm slits are made down the middle of the belly and down each leg.
Next, the shoulders are removed at the joints -- surprisingly easily, says Babs.
And now to remove the belly flap. This is to be done with great care so as not to puncture the stomach and contaminate the meat with half-digested stomach contents.
Samuel removes the guts into one neat pile.
Samuel and Babs section the ribs and joint the legs.
A neighbourhood dog gets a treat of spleen, lungs and kidneys. Later I remove the hooves and he comes back for those. He proceeds to follow me around for the rest of the day...hoping.
Samuel and Babs do the initial round of cleaning out half-digested greens from the small intestines. There's a lot of it. The smell, while not knock-you-out overpowering, is distinct and sticks in your head. Now I can always smell a goat (or their poop) that's anywhere in a 10m radius.
And now to empty out and scrape clean(ish) the stomach....all 4 of them.
Samuel and Babs wash and scrape fat from the goatskin, then nail it as high as they can on a nearby tree in the hope that the dogs won't get to it overnight. Idiotically we forgot this when we left -- we've asked Cyrill to wear it home to Frankfurt as a cape or something. Very Heart of Darkness, no?
Mama Odula panfries the liver for lunch on her charcoal cooker. She also stews whatever goat meat bits that won't be used for the nyama choma (Kenyan-style BBQ) dinner. The stomach and guts need a long hard soak and scrub before they'll be ready for cooking.
After lunch I get down to marinading the legs and ribs. Am keeping it simple as Floyd would have done. Wash the meat thoroughly. Place in basin. Pour Coca Cola into basin to tenderise the meat. Swig the rest of the bottle. This cooking with Coke business amuses the kids to no end. Floyd might have used local Tusker beer instead, but there was none available at our neighbourhood trading post.
Anyway, back to it. Divide 4-6 large garlic cloves into thick slices, make deep incisions in the legs, and stuff the garlic into the slits. Rub a generous amount of Royco mchuzi mix, the ubiquitous food seasoning found in these parts... Royco is a Unilever powdered concoction of constarch, salt, sugar, coriander cinnamon, fennel seeds, tumeric, ginger, garlic, cumin, methee seeds, flavour enhancers -- must be MSG I reckon -- and permitted food colouring, whatever that is.
I rope in Tanya to wave away the flies while the meat soaks.
Dan and Babs dig a hole for the fire in our "front yard" and pile up twigs and branches by size. We use dried corn cobs and corn hairs for firestarters. Not that I've ever had one, but I absolutely cannot ever go back to gas BBQ grills after this.
Waiting impatiently for the fire to reach optimum heat...
And away we go! 30 minutes of grilling, turning and basting...
And then, perfection.
Samuel was quite keen about grilling the goat's testicles...unfortunately due to the coarseness of the grill mesh Samuel accidentally dropped both into the flames while cooking them. He was quite despondent.
In the Odula living-cum-dining room, Babs carves up the legs, and Mama Odula brings in the matumbo: chopped up stomach and braided intestines stewed for hours in cooking fat, tomatoes and onions (and Royco I'm sure, judging by the colour). I try a little for my honour's sake, but it holds too strong a taste and smell of grass-half-digested-in-stomach-juices for me. Babs digs it though, having grown up with innards curry.
Gloria's had enough talk! It's time to chow down. Strictly traditional nyama choma doesn't use any wussy stuff like marinade, so our garlic adds a fabulously novel infusion to the meat.
The ribs -- between the Royco and the slow fire -- are deliciously smoky. The bits between the ribs could definitely work as a jerky snack.
Mama Odula is well impressed at how tender we've kept the meat. Mr Odula asks Babs if he's ever worked in a restaurant or a hotel.
We nearly choke on our goat laughing, but we're pleased at the compliment.
More importantly, we hope we've done the goat -- and Floyd -- justice today. A toast (of Coke) to both.