I went to the pub on Friday and it was the most exciting thing to have happened to me for a while. But the hangover from the day drinking was also the worst thing that has happened to me in a while, so…
This week is all about coconut; the requests were for desiccated coconut, but I’ll cover the plant and different variations sold in the shops. Personally, I am a big fan of coconut, always have been. A lot of Eastern Europeans in my life have a weird affection and longing for all things coconut, probably has something to do with Bounty adverts selling us the idea of perfect paradise.
Anyway, hope you enjoy this issue and find many uses for your abandoned bags of desiccated coconut.
What is desiccated coconut? It’s the dried, finely shredded coconut flesh, sometimes sweetened.
What does it taste like? It has a light sweet flavour of the nut, the coconuts are harvested just at the right time to ensure the right flavour.
Can it be substituted? Yes, it can be with desiccated nuts and dried fruit. But why would you want to do that?
It’s believed that coconuts originated in Indo-Malaya and are one of the most important crops of the tropics. Coconut flesh can be eaten fresh or dried and the liquid is used in beverages.
Successful cultivation requires a particular climate and location: a few feet above high water, with circulating groundwater and ample rainfall. If you ever want to attempt growing a coconut tree, they won’t start bearing fruit for at least 5-6 years and their full bearing is obtained at 15 years. The fruit takes a year to ripen, and each year a tree can yield 50-100 nuts. Trees continue bearing fruit up until the age of 50.
Palm cabbage - a young bud collected from the top of the tree is eaten as a salad vegetable.
Coconut is a common ingredient in Thai and Indian dishes; used for chutneys, stuffing, curries and lots more. Coconut is good for you as it’s high in fat but offers high levels of Manganese (essential for good metabolism). It’s also great source of dietary fibre and selenium (supports thyroid and immune function).
The dry husk of the tree creates coir - a fibre that’s highly resistant to saltwater. It’s used to produce ropes, mats, baskets, brushes and brooms.
During WWII and the Vietnam War, when IV solutions were in short supply, the doctors used coconut water in lieu of IV solutions. I don’t know how true this can be, can some real doctors get back to me on this one?
As every bit of the coconut is used for something it’s often referred to as ‘Tree of Life'.
Shredded, flaked or desiccated? Sweetened or unsweetened?
Different recipes will call for different types of coconut and even though it mightn’t seem like there’s a huge difference between the three it’s worth remembering a few things.
Shredded coconut: mostly used for baking, it’s quite dry with a very small amount of moisture retained. It’s shredded into small thin strips and is great for decorating your desserts.
Desiccated coconut: is ground, rather than shredded. The fine texture looks like fresh snowfall. Don’t mistake desiccated coconut for coconut flour. The flour doesn’t have as much moisture and fat.
Coconut flakes: much larger than shredded coconut, shaved into long, wide flakes. Great for toasting and adding flavour and texture to your recipes.
Sweetened VS. Unsweetened Coconut
Sweetened coconut will be more moist and sweet (obviously!). It works best in baking and sweet treats. Unsweetened coconut tends to be drier and chewier and can also be used in baking but would work better in savoury dishes.
QUICK SUGGESTIONS FOR USE:
Desiccated coconut, coconut flakes and coconut shreds can be used in a variety of dishes to add flavour and texture. Coconut pairs well with other nuts (almond, Brazil nut), banana, basil, caramel, cardamom, chocolate, coriander, citrus, cucumber, honey, lemongrass, lime, mangoes, mint, passion fruit, pineapple and vanilla.
This Bengali Prawn and Coconut dish as suggested by my friend Sohini looks incredible
Liven up your rice with this recipe for Savoury Coconut Rice
Look for variations on sticky rice and add shredded coconut to it
Roasted duck, Bhel Puri salad and Coconut relish for a proper treat
For all the fish lovers out there- Coconut Pollock with Daal
A great vegetarian option - Turmeric and Coconut Paneer with Naan
If you’re making a dessert that calls for finely chopped nuts, try subbing some of the nuts with coconut for a different texture and a new flavour combination.
Paradise bars from Hemsley sister, suggested by my neighbour Lauren
You can make your own Bounty bars at home
These Toasted Coconut Waffles will make a good weekend treat
Coconut Tuiles to serve alongside your desserts
Coconut Cream Pie, yes, please!
Double nuts in this Macadamia Nut Blondie
I love all things fermented, and this looks like an exciting simple project - Coconut Toddy
Even more recipes to get creative with:
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN
If you really fancy making your own desiccated or shredded coconut, here’s a handy guide.
WHERE TO BUY
Anywhere! Most supermarkets stock desiccated or shredded coconut, health and well-being shops and probably even your local corner shops does. Check the label before buying, most will have preservatives added for longer shelf life. Avoid anything with artificial sweeteners, flavourings and colours.
Something to watch: Broken Bread with Roy Choi, looking into the food industry, production and people changing their local communities
Cookbook to explore: I saw a few recipes from Ripe Figs by Yasmin Khan and I am contemplating adding this to my birthday wishlist. The book is a celebration of recipes from Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. And here’s a great piece from Vice talking about The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and the echos of the war that happened over 40 years ago
Something to read: my main take away from this is that Nigella doesn’t order takeaways
If you got this far, you probably really like coconut! See you next week for another issue of #notanothercookbook.
Coming up next week: I cook 10 recipes from Solo by Anita Lo
P.S. and as to whether it’s a fruit, nut or seed? It’s all three!