He who plants a coconut tree, plants food and drink, vessels and clothing, a home for himself and a heritage for his children ... the list has grown steadily since that South Seas saying first reflected on the value of the coconut palm.
In cooking, the use of coconut products is limitless. As a food the nutritional value is excellent. It is a rich source of fibre, zinc, calcium and potassium. The oil, one of the few non-animal saturated fats, contains medium-chain fatty acids which, unlike other saturated fats, produce energy rather than being stored as fat in the body.
Coconut food products go with: Almost anything, have both sweet and savoury applications, and feature in cuisines worldwide. Any list will just touch the surface, but red and white meats, seafood, curries, vegetables, rice, cakes, ice creams, alcoholic drinks – think pina colada – non-alcoholic drinks and tropical and citrus fruit all marry well.
Selection and storage: A fresh coconut will keep for several months at room temperature. To prepare, first remove the outer husk. Cracking open a coconut first involves piercing the three holes at its base –use a Phillip’s head screwdriver – and draining the coconut water. Tap around the full equator of the nut with a hammer and very quickly the shell will split to reveal the flesh. Once cracked, the flesh should be removed and refrigerated or frozen.
Recipes and styling Kay Francis
Photography Ken Brass
1kg natural full-cream Greek yoghurt
100g coconut milk powder
Line a sieve with an overhanging double layer of muslin and position it over a deep bowl. Spoon yoghurt into sieve, draw up the edges of the muslin and twist them together to enclose yoghurt. Stand overnight in the fridge. This draining will yield 1½ cups whey. Whisk milk powder into whey until smooth. Whisk curds (solids) into the coconut mixture until smooth. Spoon into original, cleaned yoghurt container or another plastic lidded container. Refrigerate at least two hours before using. Serve with muesli, crunchy granita or porridge, fruit, cakes and desserts, or with curries. Yoghurt can also be served frozen (recipe follows).
FROZEN COCONUT YOGHURT WITH COCONUT BISCUITS, MANGO AND PAPAYA
Ikg coconut yoghurt
1 egg white
¼ cup coconut sugar
¼ teaspoon concentrated vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut flour
30g salted butter, melted
10g macadamias, roasted and chopped
Thinly sliced papaya and green mango
Finely julienned rind and juice 1 lime
To make Frozen Coconut Yoghurt spoon yoghurt into ice-cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until required. (Alternatively, pour mixture into a shallow container and freeze, stirring with a fork every hour to keep mixture smooth.)
For Coconut Biscuits, preheat oven to 180˚C. Beat egg white until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar until dissolved, stir in vanilla and then fold in sifted flour alternatively with melted butter, beginning and ending with flour. Spoon teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto greased oven trays. Spread each to 5cm diameter. Sprinkle with chopped macadamias. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the biscuits are firm and dry. Cool on trays. Store in an airtight container until required, but biscuits are best eaten within 24 hours.
Remove yoghurt from freezer to refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve frozen yoghurt accompanied by a Coconut Biscuit and thinly sliced papaya and green mango (or fruit of your choice) combined with lime rind and juice.
SEAFOOD IN COCONUT BROTH
1 litre coconut water
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon grass (fresh or frozen)
4 Kaffir lime leaves, sliced
3 large red chillies, chopped
2cm piece green ginger, grated
Grated rind and the juice of 1 large lime
2 spring onion bulbs, chopped
Roots and stems from 1 bunch coriander, washed and chopped (reserve leaves for garnish)
½ cup tiny dried shrimp (from Asian food shops)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 tablespoon coconut amino sauce (or soy or ponzu)
Your choice of fleshy white fish (orange roughy, snapper, mahi mahi) cut into 3cm dice
Green prawns, peeled and deveined
Fresh green-lipped mussels, cleaned (remove from shells if you wish)
½ daikon radish, julienned to matchsticks
2 carrots, julienned to matchsticks
1 bunch snake beans or garlic stems, cut into 3cm lengths
Green end of 1 spring onion, shredded
Fresh bean shoots
Snow pea shoots, trimmed
2 sliced red chillies
Place all broth ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, turn off heat and stand for at least an hour, but preferably longer, to let flavours develop. Place prepared vegetables in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Drain and repeat, then stand until required. Strain broth through a sieve lined with muslin and return to a clean saucepan. Discard solids. Heat broth until simmering, then add seafood, return to a simmer and cook 4-5 minutes.
Strain vegetables and distribute between warmed individual plates. With a slotted spoon distribute seafood between plates, then spoon broth over. Top with all or your choice of suggested garnishes. Serve immediately.
BAKED COCONUT RICE CUSTARD WITH LYCHEES AND WATERMELON
1½ cups short-grain rice
1 litre coconut water
4 star anise
320g can sweet condensed coconut cream
4 egg yolks
Grated rind and juice of 2 limes
Fruit in Coconut-Lime Syrup
½ cup coconut sugar
Julienned rind and juice of 3 limes
½ teaspoon grated green ginger
565g can lychees
500g seedless watermelon, scooped into balls
½ cup chopped roasted macadamias
25g packet Coconut Chips
Combine rice, coconut water and star anise in a saucepan, cover and cook over a low heat 30 minutes, or until most liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stand 10 minutes. Remove star anise and stir lime rind into coconut. Preheat oven to 150˚C. Whisk together yolks, condensed coconut milk and lime juice. Pour into rice in saucepan and mix thoroughly. Place a small piece of baking paper into 6 x ¾-cup baking moulds (or containers of your choice, or one large dish). Spoon in rice, packing well. Place containers in a shallow baking tray and pour in hot water to about 1cm deep. Cover containers loosely with baking paper, then place tray in centre of preheated oven. Bake 40 minutes.
Cool slightly in containers then turn out rice to serve, at room temperature. Combine coconut sugar, lime rind and juice and ginger in a bowl. Add lychees and their syrup and the watermelon. Refrigerate until required. Serve rice sprinkled with macadamias and coconut chips, and the fruit in syrup. Pass extra syrup separately.