food + drink · store cupboard

Creamy Coconut Milk – Homemade

Coconut Milk-0054-2If you have subscribed to Food and Tools you might be feeling a sense of “Déjà Vu”…  I’ve seen this post before! Yes you have! I never knew blog posts could disappear and I have absolutely no idea how that happened. It did bring to my attention that some older posts have some broken links and missing photographs, so it seems I have a little housework to do. Maybe it happened when I switched themes! Thankfully I had most of this post saved… always backup EVERYTHING!

This post was also part of the February photography challenge over at Simone’s blog JungleFrog Cooking and the theme, Homemade… making a homemade recipe from scratch. My first introduction to fresh coconut milk was in Thailand some years back and seeing how easy the process of extracting fresh coconut milk from grated coconut was, encouraged me to make coconut milk at home. It’s so easy to grab a tin of coconut milk (maybe not so easy to find a good quality brand) from the store cupboard, but there is a great sense of culinary pride when you make your own coconut milk… give it a try.

Making delicious creamy coconut milk at home is easy but cracking the hard shell of the coconut might be the most difficult part and result in a few painful mishaps!  If you have a supermarket (Lulu and Geant in Riffa) that grates fresh coconut it might be a good idea to avail of this service. Homemade coconut milk means no additives, stabilizers or salt and it’s dairy free. When selecting a coconut, gentle shake and listen for the sound of liquid sloshing around inside, no sound or very little means the coconut has cracks, leakages or old and dried out.

Coconut reminds me of Halloween and as a child I have memories of myself desperately trying to pry the coconut flesh from the shell with a dinner knife, stabbing myself a few times in the process. Placing a coconut (cracked and water drained) in a preheated oven on moderate heat for about 15 minutes helps loosen the coconut flesh, making it easier to pry away from the shell… a tip I could have done with years ago! Although you can complete the process of making coconut milk by hand, some kitchen tools make it easier. To grate the coconut flesh use an electric coconut scraper, the fine side of a grating blade on a food processor or a manual grater. Using a blender to blend the grated coconut flesh with hot water  helps extract more of the oils, resulting in a creamier milk with more flavor. You can also soak the grated coconut flesh in the hot water and when cool, massage the coconut flesh with your hands for about three minutes before straining. Using a cheesecloth bag or nut milk bag makes it easier to strain and squeeze the coconut milk from the grated coconut flesh.Home-made Coconut Milk

On standing, the strained coconut milk separates and the coconut cream rises to the top. If you only need the coconut cream for a particular recipe, leave the coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. The coconut cream on top will have completely solidified (will soften again at room temperature), making it easy to remove, leaving behind a light coconut milk.  When making coconut milk you can experiment with the grated coconut and water ratios to make a consistency you like. Use the coconut milk or cream to whip up some tasty coconut desserts like a coconut and date dipping sauce or  chilli coconut broth with caramelized fresh pineapple. Use coconut milk or cream in curries, sauces, soups, smoothies, custards, ice creams, rice dishes, bread and cake making… the list is quite endless. Grated coconut can be frozen so its handy to keep a few bags in the freezer.

Coconut Mlk-LRE-0179

Creamy Coconut Milk

Ingredients:

  • 1 coconut ( 260g when grated)
  • hot water (used 260g of hot water)

Note: Depending on how many coconuts you use, weigh the grated coconut flesh and use the same weight in water. Based on the above weights I extracted 350ml of creamy coconut milk. On leaving the coconut milk to separate and solidify, the coconut cream (when removed) weighed 120g, leaving behind 230ml of light coconut milk

How to make: If using a whole coconut; Preheat the oven to moderate temperature. Holding the coconut securely in one hand, held over a sink ( which will catch the water), whack the coconut along the middle with the back-end of a heavy chefs knife or cleaver. You may have to repeat this step a few more times to break the coconut in half. Place the coconut into the oven for fifteen minutes, remove from the oven and cool before handling. Pry the flesh away from the shell using a knife and grated the coconut flesh.

Place the grated coconut flesh and hot water into a blender, blend for a minute, scrape down the sides and blend again. Pour the coconut mixture into a straining bag or nut milk bag placed over a bowl and when the mixture is cool enough to handle, twist the straining bag and squeeze out as much coconut milk as possible. Transfer the coconut milk to a suitable container and refrigerate until need. Coconut milk can be stored in the fridge for 2 days.

Note: You can repeat the process a second time, mixing the coconut flesh with more hot water, blending and straining again which results in a watery coconut milk with not as much flavor. Do not mix both together as it will dilute the taste of the creamier coconut milk… unless it’s a consistency and taste you prefer!

Once the grated coconut is squeezed of all its goodness it is quite tasteless, especially after a second pressing, I usually discard it.

food + drink · posts · store cupboard

Preserved Lemons

I always like to keep a constant supply of what I call my must-have store cupboard essentials, like home-made vanilla products, dried tomatoes, preserves etc.  Even though I refer to them as store cupboard items, some need refrigeration, as living in the middle east does not allow for a cool enough pantry or store cupboard.

Used in Moroccan and North African cooking, preserved lemons are an indispensable and wonderful item to have… at a moments notice food can take on a new dimension both in flavour and taste by adding small amounts of preserved lemons to salad dressings, salads, stews, relishes, pizza toppings, stuffings, marinades and so much more.

When I started preserving lemons I remember following a recipe that used so much salt that I found them inedible and quite horrible, throwing the whole lot in the bin and not thinking much of preserved lemons.

Before satellite TV came to Bahrain my parents would record cookery programs for me and send them by post. Dad was usually in charge of editing but I could always tell when he had nodded off on the job, leaving me to watch cookery programs along with long TV commercials and bits of other programs. And it was in one of those recorded cookery programs I gave preserved lemons another chance… and if you have never tried making them before, it is so worth the effort!

A little goes a long way with preserved lemons, which are salty, tart and intensely flavoursome and when it comes to slicing and dicing the preserved lemons, a good sharp knife is a must, obtaining the finest results.

With a lemon tree (two years) growing in the garden I would so like to tell you that I am using my own organic lemons, but will have to wait until next year… all my lovely little lemons this year turned black and fell off 😦  I am still not giving up… so fingers crossed for next year.

Preserved Lemons - Diced and Sliced

 Preserved Lemons

Ingredients:

  • 5 lemons, (see note below if not using organic or un-waxed lemons)
  • 5 rounded tablespoons of sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • extra juice of 3 or 4 lemon (zest beforehand and use in another recipe or dry the peel)
  • olive oil

You will need a suitable preserving jar with a tight fitting lid.

How to make: Using a sharp knife cut the lemons lengthways into 4 quarters, stopping just about 1/2cm before the stem, keeping the lemon quarters intact. Open the lemons up a little and place a rounded tablespoon of salt into the middle of each lemon. Tightly pack all the lemons into a clean sterilized jar, adding the mustard seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Cover the jar with a lid and set aside for several hours, by this time the lemons will start to release a little of their juices.

Open up the jar and using the back of a small ladle, push the lemons down into the jar, helping to release more juice. Pour in the extra lemon juice to fully cover the lemons. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface of the lemon juice and cover with a lid.

Store in the refrigerator for one month before using! When using the preserved lemons remove the pulp and dice or slice the required amount. The pulp can be liquidized and used sparingly in marinades, stews or discarded if wished. Use lemons within six months.

Tip: To help remove and melt the wax from lemons; place lemons into a heatproof bowl and pour over some very hot (not boiling) water. Leave the lemons to sit for a minute or two. Remove the lemons using a slotted spoon or tongs and immediately dry the warm lemons by rubbing them with some kitchen paper or a clean lint free tea towel.

Try using different whole spices like, fennel seeds, cumin, coriander seeds, cardamon pods allspice and star anise, you could also add whole dried chilli.

Have you made or used preserved lemons before? What is your favourite way of using them?

food + drink · posts · store cupboard

doughnut peach conserve

A miscommunication and two food shoppers meant a glut of doughnut peaches over filled our fruit bowls. I absolutely love eating these doughnut shaped peaches… to me they are little flattened pillows of sweetness with a wonderful peachy perfume. If you need a sweet fix… eat one of these doughnut peaches but you might find it is hard to stop at one. Less fuzzy skinned than other varieties of peach, the is flesh pale, sweet, juicy and low on acidity. Because of their shape, these peaches are also called Saturn or even UFO’s.

With a big bowl full of peaches sitting in front of me I thought to make a homely jar of chunky conserve,  the urge to start  skinning some peaches came upon me!

With a big bowlful of peaches sitting in front of me I decided to make a jar of chunky conserve. Making home-made conserve or jam is not something I do on a regular basis so using ordinary household utensils for the process suits fine. My mother made jam on many occasions with no fancy equipment and I have vivid memories of the big bubbling pot and the wonderful smell of jam filling our kitchen. The chilled saucers in the freezer ready and waiting for the wrinkle test. All the saved glass jars lined up on the kitchen table waiting to be filled with the hot sticky jam. Pressing circles of waxed paper over the surface (this is where I would help) of the jam, then covering the top of the jar with cellophane and securing with thick brown elastic bands. Once the jam had cooled a flick test with the fingers would be preformed on the cellophane covers, confirming the covers were taut and a proper seal had taken place.

Conserves contain bigger and more whole pieces of fruit than jams, both contain lots of sugar which acts as a preservative, enabling long storage of home-made conserves and jams without the need for refrigeration. As I am not interested in storing jam for months on end in a cupboard, making preserves with a high ratio of fruit and less sugar is my preference… hence this home-made conserve needs to be refrigerated and consumed within three to four weeks… no problem there! A delicious tasting peachy conserve, flavored with orange and a hint of clove… with a lovely spoonable consistency.

Doughnut Peach Conserve

Ingredients:

  • 500g doughnut peaches (choose firm fruit)
  • zest one small orange, afterwards segment the orange taking care not to include any pith or membrane
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (preserves the colour of the fruit and increases the pectin content)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of home-made vanilla extract, or store-bought

You will need: One 450ml jar with a lid or use a few smaller volume jars, which will need to be sterilized! Some waxed or silicon paper cut into circles to fit the appropriate jars!

Removing the skin from peaches: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Also fill a large bowl with cold water and throw in some ice cubes. Cut a shallow cross (only into the skin) on the base of each peach with a sharp knife. Place the peaches into the boiling water for about 20 seconds. With the help of a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches quickly into the cold water bath (stops the peaches from cooking) for about 30 seconds. Remove and skin the peaches. Unfortunately all the lovely colour disappears with the skins and the peaches will look somewhat insipid!

This next step is completely optional but wanting to put a bit of blush back into the conserve I gathered the skins of the peaches and gave them a good squeeze over a bowl, collecting about a tablespoon and a half of pinkish coloured liquid (with a bit of flavour)  which I incorporate when making the conserve!

How to make:

Cut each peach into quarters and discard the stone. Cut the orange segments into small pieces.

Add the peaches, juice from the skins (if using) orange zest, orange segments, sugar, lemon juice and cloves into a wide low sided thick-bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Gently mix everything together and let the contents stand undisturbed for about 15 minutes, this process helps extract the juice and also firms up the pieces of fruit enabling chunks of fruit to remain whole in the cooked conserve.

Heat the contents of the saucepan gently while stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Raise the heat and cook steadily (not a rolling boil) until  the fruit is soft and setting point (see note below) has been reached. Take care that the jam does not catch on the bottom of the saucepan and burn! This will take around 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow the conserve to cool for about 10 minutes, stir in the vanilla extract, remove and discard the cloves.

Spoon the peach conserve into a hot sterilized jar.  Press a circle of waxed or silicon paper onto the surface of the conserve and cover with lids.  Store the completely cooled jar in the refrigerator.

How to know when your preserve has reached setting point: Usually I follow the wrinkle test when making a conserve or jam. Spoon a teaspoon of the boiling conserve onto one of the cold saucers from the freezer, let sit for about a minute until cold, then push with your finger… if the preserve wrinkles it has reached setting point, if not, boil for a couple of minutes and test again.

Wonderful delicious ways to use and enjoy Doughnut Peach Conserve:

  • Mix a spoonful of peach conserve thorough a pot of home-made natural yogurt or store-bought, makes a delicious real fruit flavoured yogurt.
  • Place a small chunk of creamy blue cheese or soft goats cheese on a cracker and top with a little blob of peach conserve… I love this combination!
  • Serve the peach conserve as an accompaniment to pan cooked duck breast for a quick fruit sauce.
  • For a quick fruit topping, spoon some peach conserve over plain cheese cake or some vanilla  ice cream.
  • Peach conserve served with warmed croissants, scones, a nice chunk of home-made brown bread or french toast… simple but all delicious!
  • Replace the blackcurrant jam with peach conserve in this Welsh Cheese Cakes recipe.
What is your favourite flavour of conserve or jam?