My first memory of seco de chivo or goat stew is when I was very young (maybe 5 or 6) and we went to a nearby village for their fiestas or annual festivities, everyone was talking about how this town had some of the best seco de chivo in the area and they only prepared it during their fiestas. There are several versions of seco de chivo, most of the ingredients are very similar, but one of the variants is with which beverage you prepare the stew, I’ve had it prepared with chicha, an Andean fermented corn drink, as well as with beer, which is more common now because it is easier to find beer than chicha, and finally with fruit juice, specifically a fruit called naranjilla (also known as lulo in Colombia), which is a very tart fruit that can be found mainly in Ecuador and Colombia. The taste of the goat stew will vary based on which drink you use, in my opinion they all taste great, but there are people that have very strong preferences on how they like their seco de chivo prepared, the most traditional preparation is using chicha. Originally when I was planning this recipe I was going to make either with beer or naranjilla juice because I knew I could find frozen naranjilla pulp and even frozen naranjilla fruits, but to my surprise I actually found chicha when I went to the Latin grocery store, it does come from Peru so it is slightly different than the Ecuadorian chicha, but it is close enough, so this time I am preparing the seco de chivo with chicha (next time I will do it with beer and share that recipe).
Frozen naranjilla picture
Another ingredient used to make this dish is called panela or piloncillo; it is hard brown sugar and comes in a brick shape (though I’ve also seen it in cone shape). Panela is made directly from sugar cane juice, in Ecuador it is made in trapiches, which is a very rustic processing area, we had a few close to our farm and we had a small field of sugar cane and when they were ready to harvest the canes are cut with machetes (the bases are left and grow back), then the sugar cane is loaded unto donkeys (which are wearing these special wood devices to carry the sugar cane), next the sugar cane is taken to the nearest trapiche, where it first goes through a press that squeezes the juice out. The juice, which is called guarapo and is delicious mixed with bitter orange juice, is then cooked in these large rectangular metal devices (that have fires going underneath) and stirred with these huge wooden spoons (that almost look like kayaking paddles), it goes through several different of these cooking stages until at the end you have a very thick syrup, which is then poured into small brick shape wood molds, once the panela dries it hardens and the molds are removed. It is a very interesting process and just the trapiche part takes about an entire day, and of course as a kid you get to drink some guarapo and taste the cane juice syrup. In Ecuador we use panela as most people would use sugar: to sweeten coffee, tea, juice, to bake and to make marmalades or fruit preserves; the panelas are kept in their hard brick form until ready to use and then they are melted down with water to make a syrup called miel de panela (panela honey) which is used to sweeten things, or it is also grated when used in certain dishes or for baking. Panela can be found in most Latin grocery stores or even in certain mainstream grocery stores.
Enough about panela, another interesting thing about seco de chivo and goat meat in general is that when it is prepared the correct way it should not have a goaty flavor (which you usually find in goat cheese) and it should also be very tender, which is why it is braised. Seco de chivo is served with arroz amarillo (rice cooked with a little bit a achiote or annatto powder to give a yellow color), fried ripe plantains and avocado slices.
2 lb goat meat, with bones, cut in medium to large chunks
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dry oregano
2 cups chicha
2 tbs oil
2 tsp ground achiote
1 red onion, minced
1 bell pepper, minced
1 aji or spicy pepper (red jalapeño or serrano)
½ bunch of cilantro
2 whole naranjillas, fresh or frozen or ½ cup naranjilla juice (from frozen pulp)
2 tbs grated panela or piloncillo
1 tsp all spice
2 tbs cilantro, finely chopped
- Season the goat meat with garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and 1 cup of chicha or beer, let marinate for at least an hour.
- Remove the meat from the marinade and save the marinade juice for later.
- Heat the oil over high temperature in a large sauté pan and fry the meat until browned on each side.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the minced onions, achiote and minced bell peppers, cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile blend the tomatoes, cilantro and hot peppers with the remaining cup of chicha and the naranjillas or naranjilla juice, strain and add the strained puree to the meat.
- Add the saved marinade juices, the grated panela and all spice, bring to boil, lower the temperature and simmer until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened, about 2 -2 ½ hours.
- Taste and add salt if needed, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve warm.
- Serve with arroz amarillo or yellow rice, fried ripe plantains and avocado slices.