When you hear the word “coconut”, what is the next word which immediately springs to mind?
It might not be the word “usefulness”, but the coconut tree is, in actual fact, one of the most useful trees in the world.
So much so that it has been referred to as “the tree of life”, thanks to its multiple and varied uses as food, fuel, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, and folk medicine. You can even buy a mattress made out of coconut husks!
Coconut products have been around for a long time – thousands of years, in fact - due to the coconut’s many special properties.
Coconut foods have a uniquely nutty, sweet flavour, and adding coconut products to your cooking and baking will add a twist to even the most familiar of dishes.
Coconut oil is pressed from the meat of a coconut. This nut oil has been historically used in Africa, Asia and South America for centuries.
Using coconut oil as a base for cooking has become ever more popular.
Holland & Barrett’s High Quality Perfectly Pure Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is made from cold pressed coconuts, to produce a virgin oil.
Sweeter than a vegetable oil, this versatile ingredient makes a delicious primary ingredient for curries and rice dishes, and is particularly good for any vegan or vegetarian chefs looking to add flavoursome fat to primarily vegetable based dishes.
You can also use coconut oil as an alternative to animal products such as suet and lard, if following a completely vegan lifestyle.
Coconut water has become hugely popular of late, prized for its natural sweetness and refreshing taste (without coming with a high calorie content, unlike many soft drinks such as juice and soda.)
Coconut water is the clear liquid extracted when you crack a young coconut. It is not to be confused with coconut milk, which is made from the water and the flesh of a mature coconut.
The less charming but technical name for coconut water is the “liquid endosperm.”
Coconut water is hydrating, delicious, and natural. Try Vita Coco Natural Coconut Water. Not only is this coconut water not from concentrate, but the brand’s “Vita Coco Project” supports coconut farming families through community based programs.
Coconut butter is made by pureeing coconut meat and oil together.
Like dairy butter, coconut butter is solid at room temperature.
Try Coconut Merchant Organic Coconut Butter as an alternative for spreading on toast or baking into vegan cakes and cookies.
Coconut flour is a mystery to many! It is a soft flour, made from dried coconut meat. After the coconut milk that we love is squeezed from a mature coconut’s flesh, the remainder of the meat is dried, and then ground into a flour which can be used for baking.
Naturally high in fat and fibre, this is a flavoursome flour, with the added benefit of being gluten free (although do check the packaging as some brands may add in other ingredients which may contain gluten.)
If you have not tried this before, have a look at The Groovy Food Company Organic Coconut Flour.
There are two types of coconut milk to be aware of:
For example, Natures Charm All Natural Coconut Milk goes brilliantly in curries and soups, and will cool down anything spicy.
Products such as Koko Dairy Free Unsweetened UHT Coconut Milk are coconut drinks, designed for drinking by the cup or adding in to tea and coffee.
You can usually tell the drinking kind as these are sold in 1 litre cartons rather than 400ml cans.
When you need something a little sweet, spare a thought for coconut.
The classic coconut slices, for instance, have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.
With a buttery shortbread crust, raspberry jam filling and a topping of coconut meringue, this traditional treat is a firm favourite.
Use Holland & Barrett Desiccated Coconut for all your coconut baking needs.
Coconut sugar is another alternative to ordinary sugar.
This wholesome sweetener works beautifully in cookies, cakes, and desserts – it can even be added to cereal or porridge for those with a sweet tooth.
Bobs Red Mill Organic Coconut Sugar is made from the nectar of coconut tree blossoms, and is both organic and vegan.