Coconut recipes: don't be shy

Date:11-05-2013 07:58:11 read:4

Coconut recipes: don't be shy

Spring, summer or winter, Stevie Parle likes to lean on coconuts, the pillar of south and south-east Asian cuisine.

Stevie Parle's aromatic Thai fish and coconut curry Photo: Andrew Crowley
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  • Coconut recipes

    Thai coconut fish curry

  • Coconut recipes

    Keralan asparagus and spinach thoran

  • Coconut recipes

    Coconut and beetroot salad with beef

  • Coconut recipes

    Coconut lamingtons

Coconuts play a starring role at the Dock Kitchen all year. In the depths of winter, I grate them and make my own coconut milk to add richness to curries. In the warmer months, coconut adds freshness and texture to dishes. I often combine it with chilli, fresh ginger and curry leaves and rub it over fish before roasting it.

A lot of my cooking is influenced by the time I spent in Sri Lanka, where they treasure the coconut. But of course it is widely eaten: in south and south-east Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America. It’s not only versatile and delicious, it’s surprisingly economical: people have learnt to make use of every last bit of it.

If you’ve never had a crack at opening a coconut, you should. Hold it in one hand and use the blunt side of a knife to hit around the circumference until it breaks open into two halves — try to do this over a bowl so you can collect the water. Prize off the shell, then peel and grate the flesh. Use it as it is, or pour boiling water over it, let it soak then strain it to make coconut milk.

My Thai style curry is a good example of how home-made coconut milk can really lift your food. It is light, clean, and leaves room for the other ingredients to shine.

Thorans are a great way of cooking with grated coconut. They’re a bit like a Keralan stir-fry and just take seconds to make. Feel free to swap the ingredients around a bit – combine asparagus with scallops, use green beans, broccoli and carrots, vary the greens and so on.

My beetroot dish is a version of a sambol, which is similar to a fresh pickle. The Sri Lankans eat it with everything, even with egg pancakes for breakfast. I’ve made it into a crunchy, limey salad that I’ve found works wonderfully with grilled beef.

I couldn’t finish this piece without including lamingtons: a bit like Victoria sponge, only with the added sex appeal of chocolate and coconut.

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013