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Nuts for coconuts

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25 JANUARY 2011

A nutritious, delicious treat is the coconut. It is a misnomer though – as it is not a botanical nut. It is called by various nations “the tree of life”, “the tree of a thousand uses” and the not so catchy “the tree which provides all the necessities of life” because every part of the tree can be used for some purpose.

The uses would be too many to list here – and besides, we’re only really interested in one – eating it!

You’ve probably been served the young coconuts on holiday in the tropics – the top lopped off and the sweet water inside slurped with a straw or straight from the hole. A refreshing drink, but also a brilliant hangover cure.

More regularly in England we see the familiar brown, hairy husk. A swift whack with a hammer (over a bowl to catch the liquid) or a series of taps with a hefty knife will see it split open. The flesh can then be scraped out and used as is, dried, or mixed with the water and squeezed and worked in the hands before being hung in muslin to produce coconut milk.

Toasted desiccated coconut makes a tropical addition to any Thai salad, while the milk itself adds a depth of flavour and taste to an Indian curry much more interesting than regular cream.

Try baking a classic coconut cake and folding cracked cocoa nibs through your icing before dusting the lot with desiccated coconut. You could even use the oil (when you can find it) to fry in or as an ingredient in salad dressing.

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