Meeta’s July is (not just hot but) HOT and she wants us all to scream for ice cream at her monthly mingle. Unfortunately the UK weather gods have other ideas about our summer, and with the wind howling outside and the rain battering the windows I think I’ll be screaming for sun rather than ice cream. However, I’m not one to sit moping around being grumpy about the weather, and so, by lack of a decent summer outside, I thought I could at least try to create a hot and tropical summer inside. And that’s exactly what I did last weekend. Plus I decided I might as well challenge myself a bit and make something outside my comfort zone: coconut sorbet.
I’ve never been a fan of coconut, except in (Thai style) curries. I simply love the combination of hot curry paste with creamy coconut milk, it’s incredibly easy to make and it features often on my dining table. But other things with coconut, no thank you. When I was a child, we used to have an old Quality Street sweets tin in the cupboard, which would always contain mini Milky Way, Mars and Bounty. My brother and I would eat the Mars and Milky Way, and the Bounty was for my dad. If I remember well, he took one in his lunch box every day and also had one after dinner (in recent years he has moved on to ice cream for dessert). I also remember trying it once, after which experience my five-year-old self decided that I hated coconut. I can still feel that dry, fibre-y taste of desiccated coconut in my mouth, so it comes as no surprise I tend to avoid any sweets that have coconut in them.
But now, almost twenty-five years later, I thought it was time to change that and broaden my horizons a little. I chose and adapted a coconut sorbet recipe from Claudia Fleming’s Last Course and was inspired by an old Donna Hay Magazine to make ice cream sandwiches. I was also determined to try Jen’s amazing lemongrass, ginger and sesame cookies, for which I just happened to have all the ingredients in my pantry. Of course, Jen’s recipe left me with two unused egg whites, perfect for coconut meringues (another first for me). I didn’t think I would actually like these, with the shredded coconut in the meringue mixture, but I surprised myself by actually thinking they weren’t too bad. The sorbet on its own is very rich and creamy – not bad (I think it will be a hit with my dad when he comes to visit next month), but best paired with something else. Both ‘sandwich’ combinations worked well; the meringue one was incredibly coconut-y with the meringue providing a light and airy crunch; whereas in the cookie sandwich the creamy coconut and spicy cookie combination provided a more balanced and complex taste.
I don’t think I’ll find myself craving or making this coconut thingy very often, but I spent a nice afternoon experimenting, created a tropical Sunday in my kitchen and I’m now less hesitant to use coconut in desserts. And, in case you’re wondering where the British summer is hiding, shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I’m keeping it in my freezer.
inspired by Claudia Fleming’s Last Course*
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup sugar
a squeeze of lime
Mix coconut milk with sugar and shredded coconut and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils and sugar is dissolved, take the pan off the heat and cover with clingfilm for about half an hour, to infuse the flavours. Sieve into a container, add lime juice and chill in the fridge overnight. Sieve again and freeze, stirring every half hour or so until frozen (or, if you’re lucky and have an ice cream maker, churn in your machine).
*I changed Claudia’s recipe considerably, which presented me with a few questions: when does ‘adapted from’ become ‘inspired by’? And at what point does a recipe become your own? After all, Claudia Fleming must have got her recipe from somewhere as well.
from the Donna Hay magazine, issue 31, Feb/Mar 2007
2 egg whites
½ cup caster sugar
½ teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add sugar and vinegar until mixture is thick and glossy, fold in desiccated coconut. Spoon onto a baking sheet (I used cookie cutters for a round shape) and smoothen tops. Bake for 20 minutes on 120˚C. leave to cool in oven for 30 minutes.
ginger and lemongrass cookies
from Milk and Cookies
I had to grind most of the spices myself, not having any powdered versions on hand. I also used freshly grated ginger, and the palm sugar I had was very moist (it wasn’t a lump that needed grating), which resulted in a rather wet and sticky dough. I had to add an extra half cup or so of flour to get the cookie dough to hold together and be workable, and it still had a rather strange texture (to which S remarked ‘well, what did you expect, making strange dough like that.’). The finished cookies came out of the oven just fine though, and they tasted of Christmas.