Coconut, and all the many guises it comes in, is certainly having a moment. Who'd have thought that we'd be drinking it, eating it, frying in it and slathering it all over our bodies!
Coconut milk is one of those ingredients that we have become very familiar with – although it's one that preceded the current coconut boom. I've long been a fan of it, and it's one of my pantry staples.
It adds a mellow touch to fiery curries and soups and makes for the freshest of dressings. I also like to bake with it, while my coconut-milk dressing makes a sterling marinade: pour it over slashed chicken legs and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or overnight, then roast with the marinade, a couple of sliced garlic cloves and some sliced ginger, for an instant sauce.
If you don't use your full tin of coconut milk, once opened, pour any leftover into ice-cube trays and freeze to use another time – from the freezer straight into the pan.
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Prawn and sweet potato soup
When you want a soup that has just the right amount of kick but isn't too spicy, this mild coconut broth (pictured previous page) is just perfect. The potatoes help make it sweet and velvety.
1 tbsp light-flavoured oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 lemon-grass stalk, cut into 3 and bashed
3cm ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red chillies, 1 halved lengthways, 1 chopped
2 kaffir-lime leaves
400ml can coconut milk
750ml good-quality vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp caster sugar
450g sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
150g fine rice noodles
16 raw peeled prawns
2 spring onions, sliced
Lime wedges, to serve
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the garlic, lemon grass and ginger and fry for 1 minute. Add the chilli halved lengthways, the lime leaves, coconut milk and stock. Bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the fish sauce and sugar.
Cook the sweet potatoes in the coconut broth for 8 minutes, or until tender, then add the rice noodles and prawns and cook for a further 3 minutes.
Ladle into bowls and serve with the chopped chilli, the spring onions and lime wedges.
Salmon, asparagus and green-bean salad with coconut dressing
This creamy dressing works beautifully with prawns or chicken as well as salmon. I like to drizzle it on rather than toss it into the salad – it helps keep flavours separate and every bite a bit different.
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
400g piece skinned salmon
250g asparagus, cut into lengths
150g green beans, cut into lengths
150g mange tout, halved
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, sliced
Handful coriander leaves
For the dressing
5 tbsp coconut milk
2 tsp caster sugar
1½ tbsp fish sauce
Juice 1 lime
Mix the fish sauce, soy sauce and soft brown sugar in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add the fish and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes.
Cook the asparagus, green beans and mange tout in a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water and set aside.
Mix the dressing ingredients together, taste and add more fish sauce, sugar or lime according to how you like it.
Heat a drop of oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. Lift the salmon out of the marinade, shake off any excess and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and break into large flakes.
When you are ready to assemble the salad, toss together the asparagus, green beans, mange tout, spring onions, chilli and coriander.
To finish, gently fold through the salmon and serve with the dressing spooned over. k
Coconut and blueberry teacakes
With the combination of coconut milk and dessicated coconut, these are lovely, dense and satisfying, more akin to friands than a sponge.
220g caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp extra
85g dessicated coconut
100g plain flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
250ml coconut milk
75g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing tin
Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/Gas4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with papers or grease. Combine all the ingredients except the blueberries in a large bowl. Divide between the 12 muffin holes, then divide the blueberries between the holes and sprinkle with extra sugar.
Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until firm and cooked through. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before loosening with a palette knife and removing to a rack to cool. 1Reuse content