Cooking with Coconut Milk

I decided to dip into a couple of cookbooks today to make some treats for friends that are coming to stay and thought I’d tell you about two of the recipes that turned out beautifully, one sweet and one savoury, and both using coconut milk. I use cans and cans of the stuff in cooking for asian dishes, noodles, stir frys, spicy soups and even in my smoothies, but I have certainly never cooked with it in this way before.

Firstly I made this absolutely amazing and seriously seriously delicious tart/quiche from Hemsley & Hemsley’s new book Good & Simple. They are gorgeous sisters whose food philosophy is that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated and if you eat this way then you can maintain a healthy diet without difficulty. They don’t exclusively cook gluten/dairy free but some of their recipes are anyway and all of their recipes are free from anything processed or any refined sugars. They are quite experimental and I’d happily eat most of the dishes from their book to be honest with you!

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So this is what I made…..gorgeous isn’t it! I recommend it whole heartedly.

You know what’s funny, even back in the days of eating gluten and dairy, I always struggled to make nice quiches. I hate an eggy quiche, a sloppy quiche and a tasteless quiche. This little beauty is none of the above. It set really well, you can’t taste the eggs, and amazingly you really don’t miss it not having any cheese in it.

So to start with I made my own pastry…..I know I know, don’t fall off your chair in shock!! No, I’ve never made my own pastry, gluten free or not, so this was a first time moment for me. And……it was so ridiculously easy I now have a whole list of tarts to make in my mind using exactly the same basic pastry recipe. The amazing thing is that it is basically just made with one ingredient – ground almonds. ย Here it is:

Rosemary & Seasalt pastry case

  • Servings: 9inch tart case
  • Print

This is how you make it:

  1. Weigh out 350g ground almonds, add 2tsps of good quality sea salt flakes, 1tbsp finely chopping fresh rosemary, 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda and a decent grind of black pepper. Rub 30g of veggie butter into the mixture with your fingers until it looks likeย breadcrumbs, then add 2 eggs and mix round and round with a fork until it starts to come together into big clumps. Then get your hands in and squeeze it all together into a dough.
  2. Put one large piece of baking parchment down on a chopping board, place the dough on it, the put another sheet on top and roll it out into a large circle. I used a 9″ diameter loose bottomed tart tin. Lift the dough by picking up the bottom sheet of parchment and put it in the tart tin carefully, pressing down with your fingers all around the edges and making sure the pastry comes right up to the top of the sides. It’s an easy dough to work with, if you have holes or gaps just pull a bit off and fix them.
  3. Put the other piece of parchment inside, fill with baking beans and chill in the fridge for 20-30mins. Then bake it in the oven at 180degrees for 10mins before removing the parchment paper & beans and baking it again for another 10mins. It’s now ready to fill.

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For the filling I pretty much followed the recipe actually (I know shock horror!) but I decided after eating it that it would be nicer as a purely veggie tart and since I’m eating more and more vegetarian anyway, I think the next time I make it I will add mushrooms or maybe sweetcorn instead of chorizo.

So here’s the clever bit……when you make a normal quiche it would be full of cream and eggs and cheese at this point. But not here – instead you use an entire can of coconut milk! Brilliant! This is how you do it:

Rosemary, spinach, black olive & chorizo tart

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  1. Fry an onion and 2 garlic cloves gently until softened
  2. Add ham or chorizo (or not if you’re doing a veggie version) until caramelized
  3. Add 2 good handfuls of fresh spinach and stir through until wilted down
  4. Meanwhile whisk together 5 eggs with a tin of coconut milk
  5. Add the cooked veggies to the egg mixture and season well with salt & pepper and 1tbsp more of chopped rosemary
  6. Pour the mixture straight into the cooked tart case and bake for 30mins at 180 until it’s set and slightly browned on top

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I had a slice (a huge slice yes I know I know!!) with an avocado and cucumber salad on the side and it was just perfect for a mid week supper. Also perfect for a weekendย lunch with the family if you made a couple more side dishes to go with it. I’m thinking sweet potato fries and a quinoa salad perhaps.

Anyway, the next creation to use coconut milk was a fruity loaf cake that I adapted from a Clean Cakes recipe. This book is quite a technical baking book full of cakes, desserts, pies, bars, muffins etc all of which are gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Amazing really. The only advice I would give you is check the recipes before launching in because even I struggled with some of the ingredients and I have a whole load of weird and wonderful ingredients in my cupboards I can assure you! She tends to use lots of different flour combos, strange alternatives for sugar like coconut nectar and palmyra powder (?), binders like arrowroot and guar gum, and she spends quite a lot of time advising you to dry and activate your nuts (!!!) whatever that means.

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So, typical me, I did launch straight in (against my own advice obviously) and ended up having to adapt the recipe quite a bit to use the ingredients I did have. My substitutions were: coconut cream instead of coconut yogurt, agave syrup instead of palmyra nectar, cinnamon instead of cloves and plain gluten free flour instead of brown rice flour.

But it turned out deliciously. It is sweet from the fruit, very moist and has a lovely texture. I’m going to be enjoying it for breakfast for the rest of the week! Oh and maybe for an afternoon cuppa tea snack too. And maybe for pudding after dinner later.

Fruit Loaf

  • Servings: makes a large loaf
  • Difficulty: bit of effort
  • Print

You will need this:

60g chopped hazlenuts
100g chopped apricots
70g dried cherries
100g ground almonds
100g plain gluten free flour
40g sorghum flour
15g cornflour
15g arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
70g agave nectar
180g coconut cream off the top of a tin of coconut milk
50g melted coconut oil
zest of a lemon and an orange

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You make it like this:

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients with the dried fruit and nuts
  2. Whisk together the eggs with the coconut cream, coconut oil, zest & agave nectar
  3. Mix it all together and pour into a large lined loaf tin
  4. Bake for 50mins at 170
  5. Leave to cool completely in tin before cutting

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