Not for the faint-hearted: Montserratian goat water

We approached this recipe with some trepidation. Yes, it really does say 4-5 scotch bonnet chillies. Knowing how hot just one of these bad boys can make a dish, we nearly chickened out, but in the end we decided that we do like spicy food, we could talk ourselves into being brave for one meal, and if it really was unbearably hot, we had plenty of yoghurt in the fridge. Thus, our Montserratian goat water journey of discovery began.

Goat water is also referred to as kiddy stew, which is obviously in reference to the term for a baby goat but is also quite ironic in that you would never dare serve this volcanic concoction to a human kiddy. It is the national dish of the island of Montserrat, a small Caribbean island with a population of less than 5000, all of whom clearly have strong constitutions and steel-lined digestive systems. Many of Montserrat’s inhabitants also have Irish ancestry, so there is a good chance that goat water is a descendant of Irish stew – just with a considerable Caribbean twist.

Finding a recipe for goat water was a little tricky: we wanted a Montserratian version so disregarded those from places like St Kitts & Nevis and so on. The problem was that those we were left with more often than not required half a goat, something that a) we were unlikely to be able to get hold of, and b) would have left us with a LOT of very spicy stew. Fortunately, we eventually found one that we could work with, which may not exactly represent how they make it on Montserrat (the lack of breadfruit suggesting this), but it did at least give us a flavour. Oh, how it gave us a flavour.

Goat water

800g goat meat, diced (with bones or without)
3 cups flour (approx.), one for coating goat and two for dumplings
Salt and pepper
Cooking oil
1 cup spring onions, sliced
4-5 scotch bonnets (we used 4), finely chopped
1 cup celery, sliced
6 carrots, peeled and sliced into about 1/2 inch rounds
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground cumin

1. Season some flour with salt and pepper and coat the goat meat with it. (You could possibly add the allspice and cumin to this mixture. The recipe doesn’t say what to do with it. Alternatively, you could use it for the dumplings, which is what we did.)
2. Heat some cooking oil in a large pot and brown the meat.
3. Add a litre of water and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce to medium heat add spring onions, scotch bonnets, celery and carrots. Cook for 30 minutes.
5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for an additional hour.
6. Just before the hour is up, make the dumplings by mixing the two cups of flour (and the allspice and cumin, if you want) with approximately 1 cup of water, added gradually, until a soft dough is formed. Each dumpling should be bite-sized.
7. Add the dumplings (trying to avoid them sticking together, although this will be difficult) and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
8. Serve with naan bread (or other essential carb of your choice).
Serves 4

1020a Browning goat meat compressed

1021a Browned goat meat compressed

1022a Goat water stewing compressed

1023a Heating naans compressed

1024 Goat water

So, the question everyone is dying to ask: did we eat this scotch bonnet-fest and live to tell the tale? Well, yes, obviously. Of course it was hot, but we were surprised to find that it wasn’t as hot as we were nervously anticipating. Pleasingly, it was also extremely flavoursome – it wasn’t one of those dishes where the chilli kills the taste of everything else. It was very warming – perfect for the wintry weather, even if it is from the Caribbean – and couldn’t have been much easier to make, so we’d certainly consider making it again. The naan was a great accompaniment too – we used a wholemeal one, but you could use any type of bread.

All of that said, we do add chilli to a lot of our cooking, and enjoy spicy food. If you have a chilli phobia (or dislike), we probably wouldn’t recommend this one!


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