Oh What A Lovely Bunch o’ Coconuts!

Over the past few years, coconuts have been increasingly hailed as the new ‘superfood’. When thinking about coconut products, the main ones that used to spring to mind for me were coconut meat, water and milk.

However, as I’ve now realized, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The selection of coconut derived products is vast, and seems to be ever increasing.

Coconuts are a fruit, and not a nut as they are often mistakenly thought of. To get more technical, a coconut is a one-seeded drupe. There’s one for your pub quiz round, thank me later.

The science bit: Coconuts contain significant amounts of fat, which have previously given them a bad name. However, they are generally made up of medium chain saturated fatty acides (MCFAs), in particular Lauric Acid. Lauric acid is converted into monolaurin which is an antiviral and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease causing organisms … part of the reason that they are thought to be so good for us.

Coconuts are cited for boosting our metabolism which leave us feeling fuller for longer. They are also said to be able to strengthen our immunity. It would be wise for me to note however, that opinions on coconuts are still torn with some saying that they’re the best thing since sliced bread, and some still raising concern about how fattening they are.

The different coconut products that I’ve come across so far are;

Coconut Oil

The oil is extracted from the meat of the fruit. Coconut Oil has a similar nutritional profile to butter due to its high saturated fat content, but it is better for us due to the type of saturated fats, Lauric acid and Myristic acid. It also contains some poly- and mono-unsaturated fats which bring additional health benefits.

Coconut Oil is a great replacement for butter when baking. It’s also great in everyday cooking and surprisingly doesn’t give a strong coconut-taste instead just enhancing the flavours that are already there.

Coconut Water

Found in the centre of young green coconuts, coconut water is a natural isotonic drink. It is highly hydrating, containing such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium.

Coconut Milk

Pressed from coconut milk, its great in cuisines of tropical and subtropical countries.

Coconut Flour

Produced from dried coconut meat, it’s a natural byproduct of coconut milk production. Its made by drying coconut meat at a low temperature and grounding until it produces a soft, fine powder.

One thing I have noticed with coconut flour is that it is extraordinarily absorbent – so you’ll need less when baking. Don’t try to substitute it in, instead try to find a recipe specifically using it.

Coconut Yogurt

Dairy-free alternative.

Higher in fat than normal yoghurts, but also lower in carbohydrates.

Coconut Amino

Soy Sauce substitute made from raw coconut tree sap and sun-dried sea salt.

Coconut Palm Sugar

A natural sugar made from sap of the coconut palm tree. This is a natural 2-steph process involving collecting the sap from the flower of the coconut palm and then heating it until most of the water has evaporated.

Regular sugar and high fructose corn syrup don’t contain any vital nutrients, and so are effectively ‘empty calories’. Coconut Palm Sugar on the other hand manages to rein quite a few nutrients.

Coconut Palm Sugar does still contain similar amounts of fructose to normal sugar so still needs to be eaten in moderation!

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Sweet Like Chocolate!

Never mind about 1066 William the Conqueror, 1087 William the Second. Such things are not going to affect one’s life…but 1932 the Mars Bar and 1936 Maltesers and 1937 the Kit Kat – these dates are milestones in history and should be seared into the memory of every child in the country. – Roald Dahl

I optimistically set myself the challenge of making chocolate once I’d got to grips with the unprocessed challenge. Now, admittedly somewhat premature, a rainy weekend in January seems like as good a time as any.

The back of my raw cocoa powder bag had a really simple recipe to make chocolate which consisted of only three ingredients; raw cocoa powder, cocoa butter and coconut palm sugar. So far so good.

I’d like to say that there was some long, magical process involved in turning these three cheeky ingredients into chocolate, but I simply melted them all over a bain marie, popped it into the freezer, and hey presto, dark chocolate!

Verdict: Well, it tasted like chocolate! Although it was quite grainy – so a little bit more practice required.

– A quick bit of research reveals that the cause of it being quite grainy/gritty could be due to (a) the tempering of the chocolate (b) the sugar used. Thankfully it tastes good enough to me for a first attempt!