Venetian explorer and writer Marco Polo is considered to be the first westerner to pay any attention to the coconut. ‘One of these nuts,’ he wrote, ‘is a meal for a man, both meat and drink’. In the tropics, the backyard coconut palm takes the place of the family cow. Coconut cream and milk play an even more important part in tropical menus than cows’ milk in our cuisine. 

The thin, refreshing clear liquid which pours from a young coconut when it is opened is not coconut cream or milk. It is coconut water which these days now preserved in tetrapaks and bottles as a health drink. Coconut cream and milk are prepared by squeezing grated coconut flesh with a little water until a thick liquid is produced. This, when left in the refrigerator overnight, will form a thick layer and a thin layer — cream and milk. 

Although it is considered an alternative milk for people with lactose intolerance or those following vegan or paleo diets, the calorie contents of coconut and dairy milks differ hugely. There are about 750 kilojoules in 100 mLs of coconut milk and 265 in 100 mLs of blue milk. Choose lower fat coconut milk, if available 


Measure the base of loaf pan.

1 3/4 cups desiccated coconut
400g can coconut milk
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 2/3 cups self-raising flour
1 cup diced frozen mango pieces 

Combine the desiccated coconut and the coconut milk in a large bowl. Cover and stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line the base and sides of a 21cm x 10cm loaf pan with baking paper.

Stir the caster sugar, egg and vanilla essence into the coconut mixture. Sift the flour over the top. Gently stir to combine. Fold in the mango reserving a few pieces for the top.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan. Sprinkle with the reserved mango

Bake for 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then cool completely on a wire rack.

Great served for breakfast lightly toasted, or with morning or afternoon coffee or tea. 


So easy, so delish. 

250g skinned and boned white fish fillets
3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
2 teaspoons tamarind paste
3/4 cup coconut cream  
flour for dusting
1/4 cup chopped coriander  
Place the fish in a shallow dish and add the lime or lemon juice. Turn the fish over then leave for 5 minutes.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Gently fry the shallot until tender. Add the garlic, sriracha sauce, tamarind paste and coconut cream. Bring to a simmer, then cook gently for 2 minutes. Add a little water if too thick.
Meanwhile, pat the fish dry and dust in the flour. Heat the remaining oil in a separate frying pan. Pan-fry the fish for about 1 minute each side until lightly coloured. Transfer the fish to the coconut sauce and add the coriander. Great served with rice. Serves 2.


Whipped Coconut Cream: 400g can coconut cream
3 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Coconut Custard: 2 tablespoons custard powder
3 tablespoons each: sugar, water 
400g can coconut milk
2-3 tablespoons white rum
Tarts: 12 small baked tartlet shells
1-2 slices fresh or canned pineapple
1/2 cup toasted desiccated coconut
Chill the can of coconut cream overnight.

Next day, scoop the solid coconut cream into a bowl. Add the icing sugar and vanilla essence. Beat until whipped. Chill until required. It will solidify so remove from the fridge 5 minutes before serving. It will keep for 2-3 weeks covered in the fridge.
To make the custard, place the custard powder, sugar and water in a microwave-proof bowl, stirring until smooth. Add the coconut milk. Microwave on high power for 2 minutes, stir well then continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, until thickened. Stir well. Cool. Stir in the rum. Refrigerate for up to 2 days if required.

Pat the pineapple dry and grill or pan-fry in a ridged frying pan. Cut into 2cm pieces. Cool. 

Fill the tartlet shells with the custard. Top with pieces of pineapple and a swirl of piped whipped coconut cream. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut. Makes 12 small tartlets.


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