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I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts … now what can I do with them?



You can’t make a piña colada or a decent Thai curry without it, its water makes a great recovery drink, and its fibrous husk, when burned, repels mosquitos — these are just a few of the many reasons to celebrate World Coconut Day on Thursday, September 2.



One of nature’s most versatile products, the coconut plant and its various parts can be used for food and drink, cosmetic preparations, and decorating. Some coconut proponents even claim that the fruit’s oil can reverse dental decay — if you swish it around in your mouth for 20 minutes a day! Most of us aren’t comfortable with a mouthful of oil, no matter whence that oil comes or what it’s purported to do. But we can still get caught up in the coconut craze. Whether you’re stuck on a deserted island or comfortable in your own home, here are five uses for coconut:

  1. Coconuts boost immunity. As a source of antioxidants, eating coconut and drinking its water can boost immunity and fight diseases.

  2. Coconut is good for diabetes. Owing to their low-calorie and high fibre content, diabetics can eat more coconuts to help manage their blood sugar levels.

  3. Coconut is good for hair growth. Many people swear by coconut oil for nourishing their hair — not only does it condition hair, leaving it soft and luxurious, but it tackles several hair problems.

  4. Coconut oil is great for the skin. From mosquito bites to anti-aging, coconut oil is useful in healing skin from scars, scabs, and wounds, as well as preventing dull skin.

  5. Coconut as a garnish. Coconut is often shredded and added to different dishes to add taste and texture.

The best use of all though is as an ingredient in cooking and baking, so we asked Capsicum Culinary Studio alumnus Hendrik Pretorius, now pastry chef at a top restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal, for his favourite recipes that make use of this tropical wonder fruit. He sent us these two sweet treats from his forthcoming bookThe Sweet Side of Life.



Beijinho de Coco (Coconut Kisses)

[Time: 45 Minutes. Makes 12]


The translation ofBeijinho deCocois‘CoconutKiss’ and this sweet treat is a firm favourite in Portugal, especially at birthday parties!


Ingredients

1 tin sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon butter

150g desiccated coconut

butter for greasing


Method

Bring the condensed milk and butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced by half and thickened (20 mins). Remove from heat and stir in the coconut and allow to cool before pouring into a pre-greased bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. Rub a little oil into your hands and the, using a tablespoon, scoop out the coconut fudge and roll between your hands into little balls. Roll each ball in coconut and store in a cool place or in the fridge until serving.



Coconut Financiers

[Time: 40 minutes. Makes 20]


This classic small French petit four is just perfect for about any occasion and super delicious served fresh. The secret is in the brown butter (beurre noisette) which gives it that beautiful nutty flavour. Perfect with a cup of freshly brewed coffee for that mid-morning treat.


Ingredients

240g sugar

80g all-purpose flour

120g almond flour

6-8 large eggs, whites only

200g brown butter*

50g desiccated coconut


Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Grease a 20 mini muffin tin. In a large mixing bowl sieve in the almond flour, all-purpose flour, desiccated coconut and then add the sugar and mix. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg whites and gently incorporate the dry ingredients until all well combined. Whisk the browned butter in gradually while mixing. After filling each muffin hole, gently tap the muffin pan on the counter to smooth out the batter and get rid of any air pockets. Sprinkle each one with a little more coconut. Place the baking tray in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 180°C and bake for 20 minutes until the top of the financiers are golden brown. Insert a toothpick into one and if it comes out clean. They are done. Let them in the muffin pan for 5-10 minutes then place them on a cooling rack. When completely cooled, sprinkle with icing sugar.


* For the brown butter: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it has melted, begin whisking to keep it from separating. Once the butter begins to boil, stop whisking and increase the heat to medium-high. Continue to cook the butter, whisking occasionally to keep the solids that settle on the bottom of the pan from burning (5 mins).

As the moisture evaporates and the butter browns, the bubbles will lessen. When the butter is caramel coloured remove from the stove. The temperature of the brown butter is key, so it's best to make at the start. It needs to be very warm when added to the flour mixture otherwise the batter will not emulsify.



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