Love for the coconut
“Happiness is drinking the milk from the coconut.” For so many food lovers out there, this is not only the tasty truth, it is a gastronomic gospel as well.
Welcome to What’s Your Flavour? This week, Food takes a closer look at the delicious delicacy known as coconut and ‘dish’ on the significant role it plays naturally and in the culinary world.
The nut or fruit is praised for its unique contents: refreshingly sweet water and soft or hard ‘meat’ on the inside. The water is a sought-after experience for islanders and tourists alike, who relish in its benefits. The truth is, coconut water is a great alternative to sodas and sweetened juices. It has even been used as a delicious chaser for some strong spirits.
The coconut can assist in weight loss, improving heart health and overall digestion. If you thought the water was the only amazing aspect, let’s talk about the white fleshy interior. The coconut meat is usually consumed as a fresh or dried fruit, or as milk. Locally, some treat the indulgence as a solo act, eating just the coconut. Others elevate the sweetness by adding sugar to the mix or pairing the meat with grains like roasted corn – don’t knock it until you have tried it; your taste buds will thank you.
Coconut meat can be shredded and added to the garden and/or fruit salads, cooked into porridges, blended into smoothies, and incorporated into sauces or dips. Desserts made from coconut – like cakes, puddings, breads, biscuits, cupcakes, pancakes, macaroons, ice cream, popsicles and custards – have been known to whet and satisfy appetites. In Jamaica, signature coconut drops, gizzadas and grater cakes dominate the streets and shops as a nice pick-me-up sweet snack.
As dried flakes, coconut can make for a welcome addition to mixed nuts, trail mixes, stews and stir-fried dishes. On a savoury note, with the help of breadcrumbs or on its own, coconut flakes can be used to season or coat meats, seafood or tofu for baking or frying. These flakes can also be an ice cream cone or sundae topping, too.
And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, you’re greeted with the wonders of coconut milk. The coconut milk, made fresh from the coconut itself or available as a packaged product, is used in the cooking of famous local dishes, like rice and peas. As a thickening agent, it adds body and flavours to soups, meats and fish of the stewed and curried nature. It has also taken the spotlight as a milk replacement in pasta – yes, you read correctly. If you’re allergic to dairy, wave goodbye to cow’s milk and cheese, and say hello to the creamy coconut milk.
HOW DO YOU FANCY EATING YOUR COCONUT?
We asked a few of our foodies and here is what they had to say:
• I like my coconut meaty in texture and usually eat it with sugar.
– Shelly-Ann Sibblies, drama teacher
• I love coconut water. The natural sugar is much better than these sugary drinks. Plus, it’s refreshing and makes a great chaser.
– O’Neil Grant, photographer
• Since I’m always cooking my food with coconut milk, I definitely have to taste it in my food. I enjoy a good coconut drops every now and then, but I love cooking coconut cream shrimp or chicken in a coconut cream sauce; that definitely gets my taste buds going!
– Janine Hyatt, entrepreneur
• I love to either dip the coconut meat in sugar or have it as is naturally. I like coconut drops as a pick-me-up snack or as a filler until I can have a meal. If you put coconut in most things, I will have it. I like coconut rum – paired with cranberry juice, it has a vibe. I love all variations of coconut jelly that I have had. I like coconut cookies and loaves with coconut.
– Romain Lewis, artist
• I love coconut fresh from the tree – and I have one as often as I can.
– Petrenia Wright, art teacher