I have completely bastardised lamb rendang, and man, did it work. I use 75% less red meat than the traditional recipe and lob in lots of aubergine and gojis. Goji berries look like teensy chillies in the rendang and will scare the bejaysus out of your housemates. Small pleasures in tough times.
These teensy gnarled berries hide most of their beauty. Gram for gram, one serving of goji berries can deliver more vitamin C than those egotistical oranges. Gojis are a good plant source of iron and protein too. As a tonic, they’ve been central to Tibetan and Chinese medicine for over a thousand years. This berry’s immune-boosting reputation might stem from its specific polysaccharide permutation, just like mushrooms. Polysaccharides apparently work by influencing our immune response by stimulating certain ‘fighter’ cells. Fancy shmancy. But science is rarely that simple. Perhaps its impressive stash of antioxidants is responsible for all the hype? Nutritional yah-yah aside, I love their flavour in this dish. That’s good enough reason for me!
Serves 8 with rice
2 brown onions, chopped
5 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil or ghee
600g lamb chunks, preferably shoulder
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
2 fingers of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons black or yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons ground turmeric (or grated fresh root)
A good few turns of the salt and pepper mill
1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut milk
Generous handful of dried goji berries
4 large aubergines
Fresh coriander, to garnish
Start by sweating the onions on a gentle heat with 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil or ghee until glassy (5–10 minutes). Add the lamb, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, ginger, spices and a few twists from the salt and pepper mill. No need to brown the lamb first. Whack up the heat for a few minutes to briefly sizzle and colour everything, then pour in the coconut milk and turn down to a putt-putter. I use the lowest setting on my cooker. It needs 2–3 hours over a low-medium heat on the hob with a lid securely fastened. Any higher and the lamb will toughen. Taste after 2 hours and see if the lamb has collapsed enough or needs longer in the pot. It should be juicy and flavoursome, not tough. Give it more time if required.
Remove the lid for the final 20–30 minutes of cooking and parachute the goji berries into the mix. This will add sweetness and nutrition while concentrating the flavours. Rendang is best when it’s strong and punchy rather than soupy or saucy.
About the same time as you are adding the gojis, fire up your oven to 220C and slice the aubergines into thick discs, then into quarters. Divide between two roasting trays. Service each tray with the remaining coconut oil or ghee and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until soft and caramelised.
Once the aubergines are roasted, stir them through the rendang, tickle with fresh coriander leaves. Sticky black rice is a fabulous accompaniment if you want the rendang to stretch to eight mouths. We also love chickpea poppadoms and pickled red onion on the side.