Goji berries are little beauts.
Rich in iron, complete protein, super carotenoids, vitamins C, E and A (phew!) these dainty berries are patently potent.
We love carotenoids, vitamin C and E for their immune-pumping qualities. 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 added 5% dehydrated berry. Nearly all of the rats on the normal diet developed cancer, where only 60-75% of the berry-supplemented rats developed cancer. But that’s not all. The berry-eating rats had about half as many tumours overall. Exciting? I certainly think so.
Tempted as you may be, eating goji berries straight from a packet can make your teeth look radioactive. They have the beautiful knack of sticking to everything. Best to soak them in a little water first, before sprinkling over salads or yoghurt.
Psst! Asian stores stock them for a fraction of high-street prices. This is because gojies are popular in Chinese medicine.
Hot Goji Berry Rendang
I have completely bastardised Lamb Rendang. And man did it work. I borrowed my favourite chef Domini Kemp’s recipe, but used less red meat and lobbed in some gojies 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.
Freezes beautifully. Serves 8 with rice, or 5 people as is.
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
500g lamb chunks, preferably shoulder
Half a tin of coconut milk (sounds too little, but it works)
A few turns of the pepper and salt mill
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black & yellow mustard seeds
2 tea-spoons turmeric
Big knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 chilli, chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
Generous handful dried goji berries
1 large aubergine
Fresh coriander (to top)
Start by sweating the onion on a gentle heat with one tablespoon of coconut oil until glassy-looking (7-10 minutes).
Add the lamb, and remaining ingredients in one go (except for the aubergine, gojies and fresh coriander leaves). No need to brown the lamb first.
Cook for around 2 hours over a low-medium heat on the hob. Any higher, the lamb will toughen.
Remove the lid for the final 20-30 minutes and parachute the goji berries into the mix. This will add sweetness and nutrition while concentrating the flavours. 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 and flavoursome, not tough.
During the final 30 minutes of cooking, fire up your oven to 200 Celsius (relatively the same time as you are removing lid and adding gojies). Slice the aubergine into discs, and then into quarters. Add 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil and roast for 30 minutes. Coat the aubergine well by shaking the tray after 10 minutes of roasting. The Rendang and aubs 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 seat.
Sticky black rice is a fabulous accompaniment if you want the Rendang to stretch to 8 people. For instructions on how to perfectly cook 9 different varieties of wholegrain brown rice, including black rice, type “brown rice” into the search box to the left.