Where meat is concerned, the Mediterranean message is that less is more. Historically, this is an attitude of necessity; not one developed consciously because of any contemporary concerns for less saturated fat in the diet, but simply because the lands that surround much of the Mediterranean are not rich in pasture or suitable for raising cattle. The hotter and drier it gets, the less hospitable for animals. Sheep will eke out a living where cows will not, and goats will survive where neither can find sustenance.
Ergo, if there is a meat which is more Eastern and Mediterranean than any other, then it is goat. In a suitably perverse fashion, you will find no goat meat recipes in this book. That being said, if you are determined to seek out goat for your next dinner party, do not let this omission stop you. Several of the more heavily spiced dishes are as appropriate for young goat as they are for late-season’s lamb. Mind you, given that goat is very little eaten in this country, it is advisable not to say in your invitation that you will be eating a kid. In an age where Hannibal Lektor is one of our most popular screen villains, the reference might be misunderstood.
You will find recipes for beef in this section, like our version of Corfu’s pastitsatha, an appropriate dish for the most lush of all the Greek islands. Pork is not a food of the sun and is abhorred as unclean in both Islamic and Jewish cultures for very much the same reasons - that, while a pig is a naturally clean animal, it is omnivorous and when roaming wild will eat literally anything, including corpses. Lamb, on the other hand, is well represented for it is ideally suited to the emphatically spiced treatments of North Africa, which use cumin, coriander, chilli, nutmeg and saffron to such good effect in dishes like tagines, koita and merguez sausages.
Lamb is also an ideal meat for grilling, either skewered or in larger pieces. A boned leg marinated in yogurt and lemon juice makes a perfect cut for slow grilling over wood or charcoal. Using a relatively large piece of meat also means you get well-done bits as well as rare, so you can satisfy different preferences. The key to barbecuing a large piece of meat is not to have it too close to the fire. Boning a leg is quite tricky, so ask your butcher to do it for you while you watch. Next time you can have a go yourself, though you will need a boning knife for the job - far and away the most dangerous knife in any kitchen and one that is particularly difficult to keep razor-sharp. When blunt, they are lethal... you have been warned.
© 1995 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.