Goats in the Woods Project Dinner: A Berkshire County study in African goat cuisine


WILLIAMSTOWN -- Goat/kid/chevon/cabrito is the most popular meat eaten by people around the world, livestock farmer Morgan Hartman and Wild Oats Market chef Greg Roach agree. As do The New York Times and Wikipedia. But we -- and they -- know this is not so in the United States.

And most likely, unless you are from Berkshire County’s West African community, you enjoy African cuisine seldom to never.

Hartman and Roach hope to change both circumstances.

A week from Friday, the Sustainable Food & Agriculture Program at Williams College, Pine Cobble School, Wild Oats Market -- all in Williamstown -- and Hartman’s Black Queen Angus Farm in Berlin, N.Y., will collaborate to present a tour, dinner and lecture/presentation as a community celebration welcoming the public to highlight the Goats in the Woods project now underway at Pine Cobble School.

Leonardo and Francesca, two young Maremma-Great Pyrenees dogs, guard 16 Kiko meat-goats -- from Hartman’s sustainable, grass-fed beef and pastured livestock farm -- living in the school’s woods doing what goats love best: wander, browse, eat plant bark. Specifically, bark of non-native/invasive trees and shrubs, which escaped their original purpose as garden ornamentals. Birds swallowed their seeds, then dropped them everywhere they flew. These privet shrubs and honeysuckle, burning bushes, multiflora rose bushes, Japanese barberry bushes, European buckthorn trees and apple trees -- none native to New England -- currently shade native seedlings, preventing them from growing.

At 4 p.m. next Friday, dinner guests may take a short walk down the hill with Hartman and lecture presenter Dr. Peter Smallidge to visit the goats in their woodland. Smallidge helped create and now manages the original Goats in the Woods project at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Hartman was part of this research project as an agro-forestry student before he graduated from Cornell.

At 5 p.m., Roach has planned his buffet dinner with two goat entrées: Nigerian goat and groundnut/peanut stew, mildly spiced with fresh chilies, fresh ginger, garlic and ground black pepper and additionally seasoned with toasted whole spices -- allspice, cumin, cloves, coriander, green cardamom pods, nutmegs -- as well as lime juice, sweet peppers, red and green onions, sweet potatoes, groundnuts/peanut butter and whole salted groundnuts.

Brown rice and butter-sautéed greens with Ethiopian spices accompany the Nigerian stew.

His second entrée, Moroccan curried goat, will be peanut -- all-nut -- free and served with couscous and slow-cooked carrot-fennel tajine/sweet-sour-savory stew.

Roach makes his own curry mixture -- not too hot with a rounded, spicy sweetness, perhaps with cinnamon sticks, harissa powder, fresh lemon and fresh chilies.

"I cook by taste, by feel, what is good at the time," Roach said. "I decide as I go along, ‘Does it need more spice? More salt? More sour or some sweetness to finish it?’"

Flat breads, green salad with cranberries and goat cheese, Vermont apple-honey-goat cheese tart and hot and cold beverages complete the meal.

Smallidge will then speak about the Cornell Goats in the Woods project, as well as other forest sustainability issues and answer audience questions.

Of course, goats don’t know an invasive from a native. They just love to eat bark. Once goats strip its bark, a plant dies and can be removed. The natives can thrive, again. Hartman, Pine Cobble head of school Susannah H. Wells and the school community look forward to watching sugar and red maples, black cherry, red oak, Eastern hemlock and mountain laurel reforest their woods.

Speaking of the collaboration of the four organizations, Wells noted, "We have brought together people who are passionate about educating the next generation to think about the environment and to work in concert with it. We hope this is the first of many collaborative efforts educating us about healthy eating, community connections, local farming, sustainable agricultural practices, and the interconnectedness of ecosystems."

Hartman is working to bring an agronomist, a chef and a nutritionist in future.

"This particular event will launch a series," Hartman said. "The big picture of which will answer the question, ‘Where does our food come from?’ "

"We humans are social creatures," he went on, "and eating together begins breaking down barriers within a community."

Besides, he said, "If we’re asking the question of where our food comes from, let’s have some food! An academic exercise goes in our ear and out the other. If we tie the lecture together with the dining experience it is incorporated into who we are."

"Education doesn’t have to be boring," said Hartman. "It can be exciting. It can taste good. And, it can be inexpensive."


Nigerian Groundnut Stew

Adapted from recipe by Greg Roach, executive chef and prepared foods manager, Wild Oats Market, Williamstown. You can purchase goat meat locally at The Cultural Connection African Market at 210 Elm St., near the corner of Holmes Road, Pittsfield. It is sold frozen in $10 packages.

2 to 3 pounds goat meat, diced

Salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 or 2 spicy fresh chilies or choice

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated

6 to 8 garlic cloves, chopped roughly

1 tablespoon ground coriander seed

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 pound diced tomatoes with liquid, fresh or canned

1 quart chicken stock

2 to 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup roasted peanuts

1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish

Brown rice for serving

Spicy sautéed green such as collards or kale for serving flat bread of choice fresh lime, cut in wedges for serving. Sprinkle goat meat with salt and pepper to taste.

In heavy pan over medium-high heat, heat oil to shimmering. Add goat meat and brown.

Add onions, chilies, ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized.

Add garlic and spices. Stir for 30 seconds only so spices do not burn. Immediately add tomatoes with liquid. Cook tomatoes down for 5 minutes.

Add chicken stock, sweet potatoes, peanut butter and 1/2 cup roasted peanuts. Simmer until goat meat and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust salt and pepper.

Garnish with remaining peanuts and cilantro.

Plate with rice and spicy greens. Serve with flat bread and a lime wedge.


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