Saturday 7 February 2015

Nuts about Coconuts! | Part One

*This post is a two-parter, because I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to say about coconuts into just one post!
At this stage, I’m a little over a month into my New Year’s resolutions. How are you doing with yours? I’m actually doing ok this year, so far..! One of my 2015 resolutions was to eat better. So lots more fruit and vegetables, more fish, tons more water, can’t do the less caffeine I’m afraid (I’ve recently realised that my one and only sustenance obsession is coffee!), less sugar, more coconuts - wait, what..? I know, a bit random right? But in the last year or so I’ve been slowly incorporating coconut commodities into my diet (and come to think of it my beauty regime too!). It’s something I want to continue doing, and I’m finding the benefits so good that I decided to write a post about them.

Just to give you a little background into my coconut craze..! The first time I saw a coconut I was out grocery shopping with my Mum. I think I was about 8 years old. I’d never seen an actual ’real life’ coconut before, and I was intrigued. It looked so exotic and interesting, a polar opposite to the boring apples and oranges in the fruit bowl at home. I finally talked my Mum into buying one, and when we got home - surprise, surprise - I had absolutely no idea how to get inside that big oval hairy fruit, or nut, or whatever it was. So it sat in the fruit bowl for a few days, in amongst the apples and oranges looking at them haughtily. Eventually I decided that my best bet to crack it open was to knock it against the back wall, and kick it around the garden for a while. But that shell was unbelievably stubborn, it wasn’t going to let me get inside without a fight. So I did what I usually do when I can’t do something, I went to find my Dad. He obliged, as always, got a hammer and cracked it open, emptying the water from the middle in the process (I didn’t know how good coconut water was for you back then!), and finally handed me the two halves to tuck into. At last, I had gotten to that dewy white flesh. I really hoped it would be unbelievably delicious after all that. And thankfully, it was!
Now, over time I’ve learned how to ‘properly’ open a coconut:

You will need a hammer, a corkscrew, and a glass.

There are three holes in one end of a coconut. One is softer than the other two. When you’ve found the softest one pierce it with the corkscrew until you get through the outer shell and the flesh. Move the corkscrew around a little to make the hole big enough to empty the water.

Pop the coconut sitting on a glass until all of the water empties out.

If you want to drink the water (which happens to be one of the best ways to hydrate yourself) strain it to remove any impurities.

Next give the coconut a few good belts with the hammer all the way around the middle. I usually put it on the floor to do this (on a carpet or mat so it doesn’t slip), and by the time I’ve given it a few good bangs around the middle it starts to crack slightly.
If it hasn’t opened fully when hit with the hammer pry the coconut open with the other end.

Now, you’re in!

Remove the flesh from the shell using a butter knife. Wedge the knife between the white flesh and the shell, working the knife all the way around, while pushing the knife down as far as it will go along the way. Depending on each individual coconut this may be easy or a little difficult.

Sometimes the flesh will come out effortlessly in one piece, but sometimes it won’t.
This one was a little head strong so it took a bit of effort to get all the pieces out.

Along with the shell it will also have another tough outer skin that will need to be peeled away. A vegetable peeler or knife will do this.

Once you’ve gotten to the pure white flesh you can now grate it, and refrigerate or freeze it, to use in recipes. And for the record, it tastes a million times nicer than that dried desiccated stuff most Mums in the eighties used to sprinkle on top of fairy cakes with jam!
Here are five products you can use from a coconut:
  1. Coconut meat - like I just mentioned, the white flesh can be grated and added to foods when cooking and baking. I store grated fresh coconut in the freezer for up to 6 months, or in the fridge, tightly covered, for a week. Whole coconuts can be stored at room temperature for up to 6 months.
  2. Coconut water – I drink coconut water almost every day. It’s a great
    way to stay hydrated plus it has lots of other health benefits too, I also find it beats a sugar craving which can be handy! I’ve only recently been able to buy coconut water in my local supermarket (before that I used to buy it in a health food shop). I now buy Chi Coconut Water from Supervalu, but there are other brands sold there too. The water in younger coconuts (the green ones) have a higher nutritional value, compared to the older, smaller, brown ones you buy here.
  3. Coconut milk - coconut milk is made by simmering equal parts water and grated coconut, then squeezing and straining the thick liquid remaining. I just buy it in the tins though, and always the organic brands as they contain no E numbers.
  4. Coconut cream - coconut cream is the same as coconut milk with a richer proportion of coconut to water - four parts to one. Again, I just buy it in a block from the supermarket and use it when I’m making certain types of curries.
  5. Coconut oil – coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils you can use when cooking. Extra virgin Coconut Oil has a whitish, thick texture, similar to lard, and melts to a clear watery consistency. You can use it to replace any cooking oil, however, it’s not tasteless so you will have to get used to the flavour of it in certain dishes, although it does have more of a nutty flavour than a coconut one. It has dozens of uses (not just in cooking!). I use it as a moisturiser, and also on the boys for dry skin and eczema breakouts, for cradle cap when they were babies, for oil pulling (swishing coconut oil around your mouth for 20 minutes!), as a lip balm, I could go on and on, and I will in Part Two!
In the next post - some things you may not have known about coconuts, lots more uses for coconut oil, and what I think about coconut oil pulling. But in the meantime here is a delicious recipe given to me by a friend for breakfast Granola using coconut oil and fresh coconut.

HOMEMADE GRANOLA (Makes 6-7 portions)

This is a really healthy breakfast, but it also adds a delicious crunch to yogurt with freshly chopped fruit, and is a tasty snack to nibble on throughout the day.

2 cups jumbo oats
½ cup raisins
½ cup pecans, roughly chopped
⅓ cup mixed seeds
⅓ cup grated coconut2 tbsp chia seeds
2 ½ tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp honey
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven 160°C.
Melt the coconut oil and honey together in a large pot.
Take off the heat and mix in the cinnamon and vanilla.
When combined add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Transfer to a baking tray and bake at 160°C for 15 minutes.

Leave to cool for about 30 minutes before storing in an airtight container.
Serve with milk for breakfast - and, for me, always with a cup of coffee!

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