A Taste of the Tropics on a Rainy Day

Originally published on The Student Journals.

Coconut

If you had told me a few months ago that I would be eating coconut practically every day, I would have said you were insane. What used to be a funny little nut that only ever dropped from trees on remote desert islands is now in every supermarket in its many forms. First came raw coconut by itself, and then came the coconut water revolution. Vita Coco, with their Rihanna-fronted advertising campaign, is the most recognisable coconut water chain, but there are plenty more brands hot on their heels.

Coconut has been lauded for its high mineral content, with calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium joining the small amount of vitamin C. It is however fairly high in saturated fats, with around 22g per 100g. The good news is that you don’t need a lot of coconut for the flavour to come through – even a small amount packs a punch. Here’s a couple of ways to sneak it into your daily cooking.

Coconut Crisps

These are little nuggets of glory, perfect for nibbling or sprinkling over stir fries. Although not readily available in supermarkets across the land, Holland & Barrett stock them and they occasionally pop up in Tesco. They taste amazing toasted and it’s really simple to do; pop 1 cup of coconut chips in a pre-heated non-stick pan, tossing continuously, and add 1/4tsp salt, 1/2tsp cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg at the last minute, tossing to spread evenly. Delicious hot but crispy cold.

Coconut Water

The single biggest advantage of coconut water is that the fat content is much lower than coconut flesh, as most of it is contained in the flesh, which is watered down and skimmed off. It’s refreshing and delicious and comes in several flavours such as pineapple, mango or passion fruit. Like goji berries a little while back, coconut water had its moment in the celebrity limelight, however at around £3 for a litre carton, it’s a bit of a treat for us students.

Coconut Oil

This actually resembles butter in consistency and I eat it as if it were butter, making the name just a tad confusing. I keep it in the cupboard and enjoy on a thin slice of toasted rye bread or a fruit crunch Ryvita. I haven’t tried it in any other forms, but I can image how delicious it would be added to chocolate fondant mix for a melting coconut centre. Another excellent use is for your locks – melt about 3tbsp in the microwave then massage into clean, damp hair. Leave for half an hour then shampoo out and you’ll have hair that not only smells amazing but has a luminous shine. It’s fairly expensive, but a small jar will go a long way.

Desiccated Coconut

Lately I’ve been liberally adding this to my cooking and not just in a chocolate mug cake (my go-to comfort food). I’ve been obsessed with Waitrose’s date and coconut porridge, even adding some more desiccated coconut for an extra kick. The dates become squidgy in the microwave and a hot bowl makes for a healthy, delicious breakfast. Also try it with fish; drizzle olive oil and soy sauce over a salmon fillet before sprinkling some desiccated coconut on the top and cooking in the oven. The coconut seeps downwards whilst the soy sauce infuses the fillet from the bottom, resulting in a mouth-watering dinner.

Coconut Milk

Lately I’ve been finding dairy products have been badly affecting my sinuses and leaving me really sluggish, so I’ve been looking for alternatives. It was all soya and rice until I found delicious coconut milk. It comes in either long life or fresh forms and it tastes amazing in almost anything – a cup of Earl Grey really isn’t the same with a hint of coconut, but it also tastes great in coffee. It’s also really enhanced my coconut porridge – making it practically the reason I wake up every morning!

How not to do it: KitKat Chunky Coconut

KitKat’s Chunky Champion competition is back, with a marketing campaign to rule them all. This time the four competing are hazelnut, mint, fudge and coconut. Upon hearing coconut was among the choices, of course, the first thing I did was buy one – only to be very disappointed. Aside from a vaguely coconutty aroma, this bar is a complete failure. I wanted it to be so good, but it was n’t to be.

Evidently, it’s down to me to infuse my food with the exotic and delicious taste of this little-used culinary delight. With that, I’m off to stuff a roast chicken with a handful of ginger, garlic and, you guessed it, a hefty handful of coconut.

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