Hastings on Food

2015-08-06 06:00

SALUTATIONS. I must confess that one of my all-time favourite food items has got to be the simple, yet versatile, coconut.

Coconut is a large palm tree that can reach 30 metres tall. On fertile soil a coconut can yield up to 75 nuts a year. They produce their first fruits between six to 10 years however, it can take as long as 15 to 20 years to reach peak production.

In botanical terms the coconut fruit is a drupe and not a true nut. They can weigh as much as 1,5kgs and its roots are fibrous, not tap roots, and consist of an abundant number of thin roots that grow outwards with only a few penetrating deep into the soil for stability.

They continue to grow roots from the base stem throughout its life and are usually less than three inches in diameter and uniformly thick from the tree trunk to the root tip. The palm produces both male and female flowers however, they are still believed to be largely cross-pollinated.

The earliest description of a coconut palm was given by Cosmos of Alexandria in 545 AD and in the story One Thousand and One nights. Sinbad the sailor bought and sold coconuts during his fifth voyage. Marco Polo referred to them in 1280 as nux indica.

The coconut is also well known for its versatility and has many uses, especially in the tropics. When I lived in the Seychelles, we used coconut shells for ornaments, baby’s mobiles, open fires and homemade candle holders.

The flesh we used to feed our free-range chickens and believe you me, you can’t beat the taste. I used to place large pieces of coconut in my Kazye (fish trap weaved out of bamboo) place it weighed down with large boulders on a shallow reef and leave the caught fish for a bit longer so the coconut taste was prevalent when cooked.

Coconuts are very different to other fruits namely because they contain a large quantity of water which is potable. I fondly remember after some practice being able to remove a small circular portion on the top of a coconut using nothing more than a small rock, whereby ensuring the water remained inside. Some mistakenly think the water is the milk, which is incorrect. The milk is obtained by grating the flesh immersing it in hot water and then squeezing it out through a sieve. The milk has a fat content of around 23% and when left in the fridge coconut cream will rise to the top. Coconut water can also be fermented to produce coconut vinegar. The sap derived from the flower clusters of the coconut can also be drunk as a normal drink or left to ferment into palm wine or coconut vodka. The sap can also be reduced by boiling to create a sweet syrup or reduced further to make palm sugar. Additionally, the apical buds of adult palms are edible and are used in the famous “millionaire’s salad”. Newly germinated coconuts contain an edible fluff of cotton wool consistency, coconut flesh can also be rendered into a jam.

There is much debate on the actual origin of the coconut palm, some believe it to have originated in the Americas, others argue for regions in the Indian Ocean. What is known however, is that the oldest fossils of the modern coconut dating back around 35-55 million years ago were found in Australia and India.

Today some 60 million tons of coconut are produced each year in more than 90 countries with the principal ones being Indonesia, Philippines and India.

Coconut oil is one of the few foods that can be classified as a superfood. With its unique combination of fatty acids it can have a profound positive effect on your health. About 90% of the fats in coconut are saturated, with recent studies proving that these fats are in fact harmless and the whole artery-clogging concerns are a myth. In fact, in countries where coconut forms part of the staple diet and consumers eat 60% of their calorie intake from coconuts, are for the most part in excellent health with little evidence of heart diseases, making them among the healthiest on the planet.

As obesity is currently one of the biggest health problems in the world, consuming coconut oil can increase your energy levels, helping you burn more fat, it can alleviate hunger and assist you in eating less, whereby helping you loose the dangerous fat in your abdominal cavity.

Additionally the lauric acid in coconut oil kills bacteria, viruses fungi and yeast infections, most importantly one of the pathogens it kills off is Staphylococcus Aureus which is very dangerous as it causes food poisoning.

The fatty acids in the oil are turned into ketones which can reduce seizures, ketogenic diets (very low carb, very high fat are being studied to treat various other disorders)

The oil can assist with the boosting of brain function in Alzheimer’s patients, improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.

It moisturises the skin, prevents hair damage and can be used as a sunscreen as well as a mouth wash.

It is believed that there are more deaths and serious injuries caused by falling coconuts than by sharks annually

Hundreds.

Coconut waffles with salmon prawns and avocado

Ingredients

· 280 grams flour

· 10ml baking powder

· Khoisan sea salt

· 36 grams sugar

· 3 eggs, separated

· 125 ml milk

· 125 grams melted butter

· 250 ml coconut milk

· 40 grams desiccated coconut

· 1 avocado

· 80 grams smoked salmon

· garnish to taste

· coconut cream to drizzle

· Balsamic glaze to drizzle

Method

· Sift the flour baking powder and salt

· Stir in the sugar

· Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add the egg yolks, milk and butter

· Stir to form a smooth consistency

· Strain the mixture

· Add the desiccated coconut

· Whisk the egg whites till stiff and fold into the batter

· Rest for 30 minuets

· Coat the waffle machine with spray and cook

· Cook some of the mixture until golden brown

· Top the waffles with smoked salmon, avocado, prawns, salad garnish, coconut cream, balsamic glaze and rainbow pepper.

COCONUT OIL IS ONE OF THE FEW FOODS THAT CAN BE CLASSIFIED AS A SUPERFOOD. WITH ITS UNIQUE COMBINATION OF FATTY ACIDS IT CAN HAVE A PROFOUND POSITIVE EFFECT ON YOUR HEALTH. ABOUT 90% OF THE FATS IN COCONUT ARE SATURATED, WITH RECENT STUDIES PROVING THAT THESE FATS ARE IN FACT HARMLESS AND THE WHOLE ARTERY-CLOGGING CONCERNS ARE A MYTH

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