Travel & Food

The lowdown on coconuts + some awesome recipes

A few years ago Hollywood started our obsession with coconut water with stars spotted sipping on mini Tetra packs of this super hydrating drink. Since, many entrepreneurs have jumped on the band wagon stocking up fridge shelves all per the world. Having tried a few, nothing really comes close to the taste of a natural, fresh young drinking coconut. I’ve never found anything that even comes close. The benefits of coconut water are well documented, but the coconut deserves an even bigger wrap.

The coconut is relatively low in protein compared to other nuts and seeds but it’s loaded with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iodine and a stack of trace minerals. Don’t be alarmed but coconuts contain up to 60% fat, 92% of which is saturated. What does that actually mean though? The main fatty acid found in coconuts is lauric acid that has potent antifungal, antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil is the best source of this super fatty acid and is being used not only in my kitchen but to treat candida and HIV AIDS because of its antipathogenic effects in your tummy. Coconut oil also helps strengthen your immune system.

You can pick up a jar of coconut oil at your local health food store. Look out for organic varieties. It generally goes semi-solid during cooler temperatures and a creamy coloured oil in hot weather. I didn’t know this when I first bought it a couple of years ago and freaked out when I saw my jar turn white, thinking it went off, alas because coconut oil is so highly saturated, it is highly resistant to rancidity.

Because coconut oil doesn’t burn in (relatively) high temperatures (like olive oil does) its ideal for cooking, baking, sautéing etc.

It’s also really good for your skin, pop some in your cooking and add some to your hands, just make sure you buy the food grade stuff and not the tanning oil in the beauty section.

Creamed coconut is something very new to me. You can find it int the refrigerated section of Asian supermarkets. It’s made of fresh finely ground coconut flesh with all of its oils preserved. It comes in a hard white block and melts when added to things like soups, curries and sauces.

If you can’t get your hands on creamed coconut, canned coconut milk is a great alternative just make sure you buy the whole stuff and not lite varieties. I use it for for smoothies, deserts and curries.

Unsweetened desiccated coconut meat has been around for ages. It’s even made it onto our laminations. I like to use mine as a topping on deserts. My only tip is avoid supermarket varieties as they’re loade with sugar, and opt for a finely ground as opposed to shredded as its much easier to digest allowing better assimilation of the lauric acid content.

Coconut Crunch I only recently discovered via my good friend Claire Obeid, founder of the Wellness Project. It’s natural and comes from the air-dried coconut flesh after the extra virgin oil has been removed. It has a rich and nutty coconut texture and is ideal as a fibre source so can be added to cereal, smoothies etc.

Now for the fun stuff…

Make your own Coconut milk

You will need 2 coconuts (the brown hairy ones)

Drain the water out of the bowling ball holes at the end of the coconuts. Place them in a super hot oven until the coconuts crack. I generally use a hammer to split them open. Using a sharp knife, separate the meat from the shell and remove the dark outer layer. Dice the flesh and place into a food processor until pieces are broken up nicely. Add 1 cup warm water to make the mixture fluffy. Line a strainer with cheese cloth and strain the mixture allowing the “milk” to drain into a glass container. Use immediately as it can only last for up to 2 days in the fridge.

Nut butter with coconut oil

2 cups of crispy nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts – organic if possible)
3/4 coconut oil
2 tbs raw honey
1 tsp sea salt

Place all the dry ingredients in a food processor and ground to a powder. Add honey and coconut oil and process until the mixture becomes buttery and smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, it will harden when chilled, so serve at room temperature.

*Both recipes have been borrowed from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.

Coconut Macaroons

2tsp organic coconut oil
6 tsp organic honey, warmed until very runny
2 cups desiccated organic coconut
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 200C and brush a baking tray with some coconut oil. Mix the hohey and coconut together, and then stir in the eggs. Mould into balls or pyramids, place on baking tray and cook for 12-15 minutes.

This will make approx 20 macaroons. You could also add 1tbs of orange flower water.

Coconut Fish Curry

2 tbsp organic coconut oil (you could also use ghee)
1 lge onion, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tsp coriander powder
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 green or red chillies, seeded and finely copped
1 handful of curry leaves, fresh or dried
1 x 400g tin chopped organic tomatoes
1 tsp tamarind liquid
2 x 400ml tins of organic coconut milk
unrefined sea salt
500g thick white fish filets, cut into 2 cm pieces
1 large handful of organic baby spinach leaves
1 handful of organic coriander leaves

Heat oil or ghee and then gently fry the onion until it becomes very soft. Add turmeric, chilli and coriander powders, ginger, chillies and curry leaves and cook for max 5 mins, the aroma will be amazing! Add the tomatoes and tamarind and continue to cook for a further 5-10 mins. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes until slightly thickened, then season carefully with salt. Add the fish and simmer for 6 mins. Stir in the spinach and coriander leaves and cook for 1 more minute. Serve curry sprinkled with leaves, and with brown or white basmatic rice.

Good enough for 4 peeps.

How to crack a drinking coconut

For this you will need a young virgin drinking coconut. I like to use a butcher’s cleaver. You can place it on the table, but holding the coconut lightly in your hand will actually make this easier.

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