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BN Cuisine with Uzo’s Food Labs: For the Love of Coconut

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My last post on the Akara cheeseburger and Akamu smoothie generated a few comments about coconut milk. {Catch up here} One lovely reader mentioned that she had a lot of coconut milk cans to use up but wanted to know what else to do with them other than curries. That comment and the ones that followed in response got me thinking and changed the direction of what I had planned for my next post. So Mz Socially Awkward – this post is inspired by you.

Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the grated ‘meat’ of a coconut. It can be made at home by pouring hot water or milk over the grated meat and straining. Canned coconut milk, which usually comes in 400ml cans, is made with a mix of thick and thin coconut milk with some water added. Most people typically use the whole cans in recipes.If a can is opened and there is any milk leftover, it should be refrigerated for 2-3 days at a maximum before it goes sour.

I use a lot of coconut milk in different ways outside of coconut rice and curries – which I believe are the most popular uses here in Nigeria. Here are 3 of my favorite ways to use coconut milk:

Spicy Coconut Marinade

I started using coconut milk as a basis for my wet marinades when I moved back to Nigeria a few years ago and could not find buttermilk in stores. Buttermilk is a core ingredient to making lovely Southern style fried or baked chicken. It ensures that your chicken is juicy and moist in-spite of the high temperatures used to cook it. Sure you can do the lemon juice or vinegar to milk trick to sour your milk, but I wanted to add additional flavor as well. The coconut milk does exactly the same thing as buttermilk with the addition of flavor. The coconut milk breaks down the tissues of the protein ensuring you have tender meat while keeping it moist and chuck full of the flavors you have added to it.

The key to this marinade is time. Your protein should stay in this creamy bath of yumminess for at least 3 hours. Overnight is best. If using this marinade on seafood, 30 minutes of marinade time is just fine. You can also brush this marinade on vegetables going into the oven or vegetable skewers to be grilled.

I tend to make a lot of everything to save time. This marinade is no exception. Use as much as you need based on what you would like to marinade and store leftovers in the freezer so you have some always ready to use.

To make about 1.5 cups of marinade, the core ingredients you will need are:
1 400ml can of coconut milk
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
¼ inch raw ginger
1 yellow scotch bonnet pepper
1 stock cube
Salt to taste

How To
Put all ingredients in a blender, and blend till smooth. In a bowl, place protein of choice and cover with marinade. Be generous with the marinade as you will need to baste during the cooking process. Keep unused marinade away from any used marinade to avoid cross contamination if not cooking the same kinds of meat.
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This the base of the marinade and you can use as is. You can also go a step further and add any spices that you prefer to the blender as well.

The picture above shows chicken in this spicy coconut marinade baked at gas mark 4 for 45 minutes – basted twice during the process and smothered in the pan juices which have thickened at the end of the cooking process. The chicken is served with mashed potatoes – using Irish and sweet potatoes mashed with a touch of coconut milk as well.

Corn and Coconut

There is nothing like freshly roasted or boiled corn with chunks of coconut to go with it. This is one of the most popular local street foods and I have seen this combination eaten for as long as I can remember. I even remember a version sold by street hawkers where the corn has been taken off the cob and mixed with coconut slivers and tapioca. (If anyone knows what it’s called, please share).

My spin on this is to boil the corn in coconut milk on low heat and serve with some of the thickened liquid poured over the corn.

You will need
4 corn cobs – husks and silk removed and cobs rinsed
1 400ml can of coconut milk
Salt to taste
Water

How To
Place the corn cobs in a pot and cover with coconut milk, some water and salt. Boil on low heat till corn is soft. Add more coconut milk if you need to. Serve in a bowl with some of thickened leftover coconut milk poured over the corn. Sprinkle the corn with smoked or regular paprika to add an extra dimension of flavor.
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Coconut & Lime Panna Cotta

I make panna cotta a lot for dessert. It’s so very easy, sounds all fancy, looks nice and can be made the day before. And its pocket friendly too in terms of things to serve when entertaining. I started out following recipes making ‘regular’ panna cotta using cream and made things exciting with various fruit toppings. One day, I made another batch of my coconut ice (recipe on the blog) and I wondered if I could take the same flavor profiles and make panna cotta. This has become a staple in my home. If people are not coming over, I just pour all the mix in a large container with a cover and let set.

To make enough for 4 tall goblets, you will need:
1 400ml can of coconut milk
300ml cream
¾ cup of caster sugar – if you do not have caster sugar at home, measure regular granulated sugar and blitz in your blender mill for a few seconds – voila- caster sugar. If you blitz the sugar for a few more seconds, you will get confectionery/Icing sugar
½ cup hot water.
1 tablespoon of gelatin
2 limes

How To
In a large saucepan over low heat, add coconut milk, cream, sugar and zest of the 2 limes. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves – 10-15 minutes. In a heat proof bowl, pour hot water and add gelatin. Stir well to dissolve the gelatin. Add the gelatin mixture to the coconut milk mixture and stir to combine; do this for about 2 minutes.

Pour into the goblets or serving glasses and refrigerate till set. To avoid any last minute pressure or fails, I just make this the day before and let set overnight. Things have a weird way of going wrong when you don’t need them to. Setting these overnight removes any guess work.

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Sprinkle toasted coconut flakes over the panna cotta and serve.

Uzo Orimalade is the head baker at Cupcake Couture – a boutique bakery and creative director of Uzo’s Food Labs – a culinary studio. She also hosts Friday Food on The Spot on EbonyLifeTV. When she isn’t in her food lab, her head is almost always buried in a book. Visit her blog: http://uzosfoodlabs.blogspot.com

36 Comments

  1. Mz Socially Awkward...

    August 22, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    C’est moi?? Uzo, this smoochy smacker is for you…. Thank you! I was already planning to make some grilled chicken suya over the weekend and therefore shall now be cracking open one of my coconut milk tins to do things your way! Although… I’m working it over in my mind right now and thinking of blending the coconut milk with onions and 1 scotch bonnet pepper, pouring that over the chicken to marinade in the fridge for a couple of hours, then bringing out the chicken and coating generously with my Naija suya seasoning before grilling.

    And how did you figure out my great zest for chopping corn? ASDA’s 47p deal has never looked better than it does right now (oh, how I love weekend food-shopping planning). I will be thinking of you when I’m munching away this weekend, Uzo. Thanks again! 🙂 🙂

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      Lmaaao. You do know that you are giving away hints about yourself right? Asda? England huh? Loved your piece yesterday…Re grilled chicken suya – that would work wonderfully. Why don’t you boil and grill some sweetcorn too. Chicken and corn on the cob as a side. Summer eats. Let me know how it all turns out and send me pictures if you can 🙂

  2. maychinny

    August 22, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    i can try spicy coconut marinade and coconut and corn but i dnt really understand the last . good work though
    keep it up

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      Thank you Maychinny. Its just a simple dessert with a fancy name…LOL

  3. TA

    August 22, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Using coconut milk for my spicy marinades…Hm,who would have thought! Thank you Uzo.

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      You are welcome TA. In addition to flavor, it does a wonderful chop of breaking down muscle especially the longer the meat stays in the marinade

  4. Marc Francis of Chelsea

    August 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I love reading your recipes Uzo. Always so easy to follow and concise. Will definitely try the panna cotta.

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      You are too kind. Let me know how if turns out…

  5. theisokogirl

    August 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    yummy gonna try that marinade

  6. abi

    August 22, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks, dis is really a nice piece,i also use my coconut milk to boil my chicken before grilling,OMG it tastes so guuuuud.

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      I know right….

  7. sum1special

    August 22, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Those meals look very delicious, who knew you could use coconut for this much.

  8. Kay

    August 22, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    I am going to try the coconut marinade this weekend. Looks so simply and easy to make. Thanks a lot

  9. Emerald-Fashion Blog (plus-size fashion)

    August 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Mmmm… the corn and coconut recipe got me thinking what the taste is gonna be…

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      nice and creamy.

  10. TA

    August 22, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    In other news,Uzo is a very fine chic and that hair? Loving it: -)

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      Ehen. TA. Thank you. Although I have been told to relax it or get a weave in to be more commercially viable 🙂

    • iba

      September 9, 2014 at 7:02 am

      Na lie nor listen to them o. Natural with tons of confidence and style is the new way forward… Well done on your recipes and step by step photo; i find it really helpful. bookmarking this coconut page thingy…

  11. Mama

    August 22, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Thanks uzo, getting buttermilk in naija na issue joo……I love coconut, use it for my skin, hair, food and now will do the milk for my marinade…..

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      You can try 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of milk to create your own buttermilk at home…I use coconut oil for my hair as well

  12. mscookie

    August 22, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    great idea

  13. Glowing

    August 22, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Gonna try the coconut milk Marinade someday soon…the Orange Juice version had been one of my favorite recipe though…I love the way you piped the mashed potatoes on the dish. It makes it inviting…Nice One Uzo.

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:38 pm

      Thank you Glowing. Citrus herb marinades and dressings are so yum

  14. Aibee

    August 22, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    How long will it take for the corn to cook? The time it takes naija corn to cook to softness just kill me. Especially when you’ve put salt in the water before the corn is soft. You will boil and boil and boil ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Although as I type this, I have the idea to use a pressure cooker to boil the corn. It should work, right?

    Spicy coconut marinade… Me like.
    well done Uzo

    • Uzo

      August 22, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      LMAO. Yes it takes a while for our local corn to get soft. Low and slow or a pressure cooker will work just fine. Thanks Aibee

  15. MissBonnie

    August 22, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Something to do with all that coconut milk I buy to make goat curry and end up using only one can. Thanks Uzo !! * Hugs*

    • Uzo

      August 23, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      You are so welcome hon. Have curried goat on my mind – Jamaican style

  16. chinco

    August 22, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    The first dish with baked chicken looks yum… But akara Burger though? Lol I would have loved to see what you had to say as Nigerian university students have been eating that since forever.

    • Uzo

      August 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      Oh yeah. LOl. akara and bread is local burger. This was an attempt to westernize it with cheese and onions and tomatoes and mayo

  17. Allie

    August 22, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Oh yum! Can’t wait to try these recipes. Especially the corn, pressure pot to the rescue!

    • Uzo

      August 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      Let me know how they turn out Allie

  18. adelegirl

    August 25, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Nice tips especially on the marinade and the corn in coconut milk. This should rescue the absolutely tasteless bland corn masquerading as Nigerian home grown sweet corn on the cob I bought at Grand Square weeks ago. After boiling it on its own, I bit into it expecting a reminiscence of my beloved Nando’s corn on the cob. Even dabbing it liberally with butter didn’t help the taste. I said never again. But these tips here are giving me ideas to give our Nigerian sweet corn another try. Thanks Uzo.

    • Uzo

      August 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      LOL. I think in an attempt to boost supply, all sorts of genetically modified produce is being churned out – looking pretty and tasting like nothing. more help needed to bring the taste up to match the appearance. Let me know how it turns out

  19. onlymewaka

    September 6, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Hello uzo, pls can u invite to hav lunch with you?thanks

  20. Foodlover

    November 21, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Do i cook the chicken in the marinade?

  21. grace johnson

    August 5, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    How do I prepare a consomme( am not sure if this is the correct spelling).

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