I've always had something of a soft spot for the humble goat. I think this dates back to a visit to a farm when my mum gamely posed for a photo in front of the goat pen, oblivious to the fact that a stealth ninja goat had snuck up behind her and was contentedly consuming the sleeve of her coat whilst she beamed at the camera; they also have nice faces, and are very cute when they are small. More than once I have considered getting a couple of pet goats, who could earn their fill of man-made materials by keeping the lawn at a manageable level and perhaps handing round a few canapes at barbecues.
Goats also make a whole range of tasty food items, as evidenced by the box of goat-based goodies that arrived the other week from St Helen's Farm. Based in York, St Helen's Farm was founded in 1986 and now supplies a whole range of fresh products from their own goats - you see one of them here. Her name is Goatee, and she had made and intrepidly escorted a selection of milk, butter, cheese and yoghurts across the Pennines for me to try. I already knew that I loved goat's cheese, and the two packs she brought were no exception - these were of a firm, Cheddar-like consistency, one mild and one mature, and have been used for cooking (they melt beautifully) and, erm, eating straight out the pack (they work pretty well for this as well).
The real revelations, though, were the butter and the yoghurt. Some people are suspicious of goats' milk products on the basis that they just "taste a bit goaty"; I reckon that this butter (seen here for demonstration purposes - I would obviously NEVER normally put THIS much butter on my toast) with its satisfyingly salty tang would convince any of the doubters. The yoghurt is naturally thickened and uses two litres of milk to make one litre of yoghurt - and it is properly, so-thick-you-can-barely-get-it-off-the-spoon amazing. Even the fat free one is good, and it's not often one can say that. I've been drinking the skimmed milk in my tea (from my "I Love Goats' Milk" mug) but have yet to try the semi-skimmed and whole milk - I reckon the latter will make for a nice rice pudding with a little honey though (more rice pudding news as it happens).
People are increasingly turning to goats' milk products as an alternative to cows' milk for health reasons - it contains different proteins and smaller fat particles, making it easier to digest and suitable for a range of conditions including IBS, bloating and eczema. I have none of these (except the bloatedness, but that is linked more to greed than specific dietary requirements), but actually prefer the taste of goats' milk products to some of their bovine counterparts. These are lovely products made by happy goats who graze on a range of flavoursome food such as red clover (no mention of Mother's Red Jacket), and this comes across in the taste and texture of everything I tried. So thank you Goatee for making all of this for me - if you would just stop posing and crack on with producing some more please...
- St Helen's Farm products are available in a number of supermarkets - a full guide to product availability appears on their website. They sent me the products to try free of charge but asked for genuine feedback and are responsible for the fact that I am now hooked on goats' butter and yoghurt.