Recipe: Try goji berries from your local Asian store
Goji berries are a great ally against viruses and disease, says Susan Jane White, and have long been used in Chinese medicine. They're also a great addition to curries
Goji berries are little beauts. Rich in iron, protein, super-carotenoids, vitamins C, E and A (phew!), these dainty berries are patently potent. Think of these vitamins as artillery against the sniffles and dodgy office viruses.
A deficiency in these vitamins can also make our skin look as dull as a tombstone. This is why the Chinese like to call goji berries "red diamonds" – a girl's best friend.
Various studies highlight the promising cancer-fighting properties these berries may contain. One group of researchers from Ohio State University injected rats with carcinogenic chemicals. Half the sample size received normal food. The other rats received the same food, with an added five per cent of dehydrated berry. Nearly all of the rats on the normal diet developed cancer, whereas only 60-75 per cent of the berry-supplemented rats developed cancer. The berry-eating rats had about half as many tumours overall.
Tempted as you may be, eating goji berries straight from a packet can make your teeth look radioactive. They stick to everything. Soak them in a little water first, and sprinkle over salads or yoghurt.
Try Asian stores for the goji berries. They always stock them, because goji berries are popular in Chinese medicine.
Hot Goji Berry Rendang
Serves 8 with rice, or 5 on its own.
I have completely bastardised lamb rendang. And man, did it work. I borrowed my favourite chef's recipe, but used 75 per cent less red meat, and lobbed in goji berries and aubergine. Goji berries look like teensy chillis in the rendang and will scare the bejaysus out of your guests. Small pleasures in tough times. It freezes beautifully.
You will need:
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil
500g (18oz) lamb chunks, preferably shoulder
1 x 400g (14oz) tin coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 chilli, chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed, stalks finely chopped
Generous handful dried goji berries
2 tablespoons black and yellow mustard seeds
1 large aubergine
Fresh coriander, to serve
Black rice (optional)
Sweat the onion on a gentle heat with one tablespoon of the extra-virgin coconut oil until it is glassy-looking (7-10 minutes).
Add the lamb chunks and the coconut milk, the salt and freshly ground black pepper, the coriander seeds, the turmeric, the chopped ginger, the finely chopped garlic, the chopped chilli, the finely chopped lemongrass stalks, the dried goji berries, and the black and yellow mustard seeds. There's no need to brown the lamb first – just put it all in together in the one go.
Cook for around 2 hours over a low-medium heat on the hob. Any higher and the lamb will toughen.
Remove the lid for the final 20-30 minutes to allow the moisture to evaporate. Rendang is best strong and punchy, than soupy or saucy. Taste after 2 hours and see if the lamb needs longer. It should be juicy, not tough.
During the final 30 minutes of cooking, fire up your oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6. Slice the aubergine into discs, then quarters. Add the rest of the extra-virgin coconut oil and roast the aubergine quarters for 30 minutes. Coat the aubergine well by shaking the tray after 10 minutes of roasting.
The rendang and aubergine should be ready at the same time. Stir the rendang through the hot aubergine, tickle with fresh coriander leaves, and holler at everyone to take their place.
If you want the rendang to stretch to 8 people, sticky black rice is the perfect accompaniment. For instructions on how to perfectly cook nine different varieties of wholegrain brown rice, including black rice, see my blog.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine