Cooking potjiekos indoors in a wok might sound like a total misnomer, but it’s as easy as cooking pot-food the traditional way, and just as delicious.
For the uninitiated, traditional South African outdoor fare, potjiekos (an Afrikaans word) is literally translated as pot (potjie) food (kos), and it is cooked open an open fire in a cast iron, round-bellied, usually three-legged pot.
While there are flat-bottomed versions of the traditional potjie, the beauty of three-legged pots is that they can be placed over and above the fire. Alternatively, they can be hung over the fire – which many South Africans like to do when preparing a traditional braai (or barbecue). The shape of the pot ensures that the heat is evenly distributed in all directions, and the juices sit in the base of the pot while the food cooks – with the aroma moving upwards.
Round-bellied pots have been used for centuries, though its origins in southern Africa aren’t certain. Some say that the Voortrekkers used them to cook potjiekos when they travelled, hanging them on their wagons.
However, evidence is that original pots were imported, possibly from Sweden, and definitely from Britain, from manufacturers like Falkirk (which still produces them) and Cannon.
Cooking Potjiekos in a Wok Instead of a Potjie
While I do have a genuine cast iron potjie, I have to confess it isn’t well used. But on Friday, when one of Magic 828AM’s presenters started waxing eloquent on his idea for cooking potjiekos and drinking red wine this weekend, I was tempted to follow suit.
Not knowing quite what to cook, I grabbed a pack of lamb (a mixture of chops, neck and knuckles), and a packet each of baby potatoes and baby onions. Everything else I figured I needed I knew I already had.
And then it started to rain – with a vengeance.
My first thought was to simply make a stew of sorts instead – in a regular pot.
Ping! Why not use my large Sola wok instead? Not my usual choice for cooking stew, it’s got a sort-of rounded bottom, and these days I cook on gas. That could work… And it certainly did, even though the wok isn’t made of cast iron, but rather from forged aluminium that is finished with a tough ceramic coating. The bonus would be that because it has a glass lid, I’d be able to see exactly what was going on during the cooking process.
So out with the recipe books, including a couple of specifically potjiekos titles written by so-called potjiekos pioneer, Matie Brink in the 1980s.
Uninspired, I remembered the baby potatoes and onions, and decided to just do my own thing.
Potjiekos in a Wok My Style
Feel free to use my recipe, or to just be inspired by the idea and create your own. Quantities are approximate:
2 large onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil
750 g lamb (2 x neck, 4 x chops, 8 x small knuckles
Stock (I used two x 25 g sachets of Ina Parma’s concentrated liquid veggie stock)
150 ml water
50 g tomato paste
1 tblsp Worcestershire Sauce
150 ml (or more) red wine
12 pickling onions, peeled
10 baby potatoes
4 large carrots, trimmed into chunks
Fresh herbs (1 large sprig each of thyme, rosemary, basil, or whatever else you have)
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil and lightly fry the chopped onion over medium heat. Move the onion to the sides of the wok and brown the lamb in batches. As each batch browns, move it to the side.
Add the stock, water, tomato paste and Worcestershire Sauce. Stir and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Add the wine.
Throw in the veggies. You need a bit of liquid, but you don’t need to submerge the onions, potatoes and carrots to cook them.
Place the herbs on top of the meat and veg and grind black pepper over the top.
Reduce the heat to low and allow to cook for one to two hours, until everything is cooked but still relatively intact. You can adjust the temperature while you are cooking – which of course you cannot do if using a genuine potjie.
Once your potjiekos is done, serve on its own or with a salad.
There’s nothing better than growing, harvesting and then eating your own vegetables. I’ve been doing it with reasonable success for many years. The challenge is ensuring you plant what will thrive in your garden environment – and even within a fairly close radius, this can change.
Because the soil in my current garden is really just sand, the veggie patch has been established on a concrete slab that covers a septic tank. I’ve used old wooden pallets as planters, and filled them with fabulously rich potting soil – and spinach is one of the things that just never stops growing. Originally planted in October 2015, the spinach harvested for this yummy dish is Fordhook Giant – and a giant it is! It didn’t do particularly well through the summer, but has resisted pests without any help from me, and in the past month has grown exponentially. The last time I made the dish I harvested Spinach Bright Lights, which was equally successfully – and it’s ready for harvesting again.
I decided to make the spinach and feta dish to go with leftover fillet steak cooked according to an adapted version of Tournedos Poche a L’Anglaise, Creme de Raiffort that is one of the highlights of Constantia Uitsig: The Cookbook published by Struik in 2000.
Ingredients for Spinach and Feta
I harvested leaves from this one head of spinach, but left the heart to continue growing. You could use a bag of Swiss chard for the spinach and feta instead. But smaller English spinach won’t work well because the leaves take only a couple of minutes to cook.
2 onions & 2-3 large cloves garlic
Coconut oil & butter
Himalayan salt & freshly ground black pepper
About 200 g feta (I used feta with mixed herbs, but feta with black pepper is also delish)
About 250 ml thick cream – if you leave it in the fridge for about a week it will start to thicken, otherwise you can whip if until it starts to thicken
This is one of those spinach and feta recipes where my Sola wok is first choice. The only other items needed are a sharp knife for chopping and cutting, and a slotted spoon.
Start by peeling the onions and garlic and then chopping them coarsely.
Rinse the spinach and remove the stalks together with the ribs that extend into the leaves. They are very nutritious and add substance to the dish. Many people discard this part of the vegetable, because they find it tough and stringy. Perhaps it varies between different types of spinach, but these were neither tough nor stringy. Chop.
I find that the onion, garlic and spinach ribs cook at about the same rate, but usually add the onion first, then the garlic and last of all the chopped ribs.
You can cook these in coconut oil, olive oil or butter; this time I used a combination of coconut oil and butter.
Heat the coconut oil and butter in the wok until they have liquified. Then add the onions – garlic – and spinach ribs. Stir gently every now and then to prevent the veggies from burning.
Meanwhile chop the spinach leaves.
If you would prefer to use English spinach, you won’t have stalks and ribs to add to the onion and garlic.
Also they will tend to overcook when you add the cream. In this case, just blanch the spinach leaves and add them right at the end with the last batch of feta.
When the onion mix has softened and looks translucent, add the chopped spinach.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Allow the spinach to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the cream and stir to mix. Make sure the heat is on low; allow to simmer very slightly to thicken.
Now add the feta cheese, bit by bit. Stir and allow some of it to melt into the sauce. You also want to have some chunks left, which is why it’s important to add the cheese progressively.
Fascinated by the incredible following Professor Tim Noakes, Sally-Ann Creed, Jonno Proudfoot and David Grier have had with their “Banting” diet and The Real Meal Revolution, I bought a copy of the book and have been trying out some of the recipes – mostly in my various Sola pans.
The Lamb and Mushroom Blanquette, which is a rich, wholesome stew, was one of the first of The Real Meal Revolution (TRMR) recipes I tried – and so far, it’s undoubtedly one of the best. It is also the only one I have cooked more than once. Featured on page 134 of the book, it has, I think, the wrong photograph illustrating it – but that’s about the most serious fault I could find. Any other “faults” were mine.
As the authors’ say in the intro to the recipe, this superb lamb stew is really really quick and easy. Very little prep, and no browning required. It does though take a good three hours to cook.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I almost always adapt recipes when I use them; and while I stuck fairly close to the original here (since I was reviewing it after all), I did make a couple of changes. The ingredients given here are what I used (I added half again of everything specified); I also threw in some sherry because there were only minimal juices in my pan after cooking for two-and-a-half hours as specified. If you’re on the so-called Banting diet, do not add sherry, it’s full of carbs; and do add the full quota of butter called for.
I hasten to add that in spite of my fascination with “Banting”, I’m not strictly on a diet of any sort. However I have always eaten a fair amount of fat (like butter and yummy, crispy pork crackling or well-cooked fat on lamb chops), and have also been aware of the need to minimize carbs. I am also a strong believer in the power of exercise, and walk or hike regularly. But this post is about a lamb and mushroom stew, and not about me, my weight lose, diets or exercise regime.
Ingredients for about 6 people
About 1 kg of lamb, cubed (TRMR calls for 600 g of lamb shoulder, which would be boneless, I used knuckles both times, and left the bone in)
3 large onions, peeled and halved
2-3 heads of garlic, cloves peeled and left whole (TRMR says two garlic heads, halved, and doesn’t mention peeling. I tried this the first time I cooked it and the papery skin detracted – look for heads that have really big cloves to minimize peeling)
6 sticks of celery, coarsely chopped
freshly picked thyme and rosemary (the original recipe says five sprigs of each – I used more, and really big sprigs, because I have both flourishing in my garden)
750 ml chicken stock (or water mixed with three Stock Pot cubes)
375 ml dry white wine
75 ml cream
375 g white button mushrooms, whole or halved (depending on size)
About 3 tbsp butter (the original recipe calls for 200 g butter, and with my half-again ingredients, this would be 300 g)
About 250 ml or more of Old Brown Sherry – but only if you aren’t on a strict LFHC diet!
Understand the Principle of a Blanquette
Essentially a blanquette is a ragout (a French main-dish stew that is cooked very slowly over low heat) made without browning either the meat or the butter.
Blanquette: The French term for a ragout of white meat (veal, lamb or poultry) cooked in a white stock or water with aromatic flavorings. Theoretically, the sauce is obtained by making a roux and adding cream and egg yolks. However, the roux is more often than not omitted. Blanquette had a very important place in historical cuisine and became a classic of bourgeois cookery.” Larousse Gastromique
How to Make Lamb and Mushroom Blanquette ala TRMR
Plan your time carefully. The first time I cooked this, I failed (as I often do) to read the recipe all the way through, and went off to walk eight kilometers thinking it would only take about an hour to cook when I got home at 7 pm. Needless to say, it was a verylate dinner.
If you want to eat at 7 pm, then preheat your oven to 180 deg C/350 deg F mid-afternoon so you can start cooking no later than 4 pm.
Then choose a suitable dish to cook the lamb in. You could use a roasting dish, a glass or ceramic casserole dish, or you could do as I did and use a Sola paella pan. It’s nice and big (32 cm diameter) and has a glass lid. If you cook the quantities specified in the original recipe it might be a little too big, but for my version it is perfect. My only observation, as I have already mentioned, is that the liquid used reduced almost completely; it may not if a different type of cookware had been used. Also, the original recipe states that the “ovenproof casserole dish” should be covered with foil, which I did the second time just to see if there was a difference in the reduction. There wasn’t. So next time – and there surely will be many more next times – I’ll be using the Sola paella pan glass lid again.
So let’s start cooking.
Put the cubed lamb pieces, halved onions, coarsely chopped celery sticks, herbs, garlic cloves, chicken stock and dry white wine into your paella pan or ovenproof casserole dish.
You could add a little coarsely ground black pepper, but I didn’t find that any additional seasoning was necessary.
Cover the casserole or pan with foil or a lid. Remember that if you use foil, the shiny side should be facing inwards to reflect the heat back onto the food. As an aside, I would have thought there would be less reduction with a glass lid. Comments about this are more than welcome.
Pop the casserole or pan into your preheated oven and allow it to cook for about two-and-a-half hours.
The original recipe says you should check the meat after the two-and-a-half hour period and if it isn’t nice and tender, to continue cooking for another half an hour. I would suggest checking after two hours – depending of course on the quality of meat you are cooking.
When you are happy it is soft and tender, drain the liquid through a sieve into a pot. Then you need to reduce the liquid (if there is any), so that you are left with – the TRMR recipe says 400 ml – and for this reason I figured I needed about 600 ml. Having probably only about 15 ml of liquid left, I grabbed the Old Brown Sherry and threw in a lot of it to increase the liquid. I then let this reduce with whatever juices from the dish I had managed to sieve out.
I should probably add that I also removed the meat and veg from the pan and used the same pan to reduce the liquid – or should I say increase and then reduce the liquid? You could though use a clean pot of any kind.
Next step is to add the mushrooms and then the cream (as shown in the pictures above). This then needs to reduce back to about the 400 ml or 600 ml – depending on what you are cooking. I have absolutely no idea what mine reduced to, but it worked and was delicious. I have watched enough MasterChef programmes on TV to know that a lot of other cooks who are much, much better than me also guess a lot.
Once you are happy with the way the sauce looks, feels and tastes, and the mushroom is cooked but not slushy and over-cooked, put the meat back with the mushrooms and the sauce. Add the butter and stir until it has melted and emulsified with the sauce.
Taste, and if you feel the need, add a little salt and pepper (preferably pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper.)
Tim Noakes and co suggest serving with broccoli, which I did the first time. A salad is also a good idea. But it’s a versatile dish and one that can be served with rice or potato (if you aren’t on a diet), or with just about any veg you like.
It’s also great with iced cold dry white wine. Enjoy!
Spain is one of my favourite countries, and one where I didn’t ever go hungry, in spite of travelling on a shoestring. Needless to say, paella had its day – washed down with sangria.
Those were the days when you could get by on R10 a day (rands – not US dollars; I had Europe on $5 a Day tucked into my suitcase which should have been a backpack) if you really tried. That was long ago; and I was “roughing” it, except when it came to food.
Having said that, there really aren’t a lot of traditional Spanish dishes that I wanted to write home about. Paella was one, and gazpacho another. Mind you, I tasted calamari for the first time while in Spain, and did write home about the experience – but it wasn’t good in any sense of the word.
I ate squid at lunchtime today and found them more like rubber bands than fish.
Sadly I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Spain again, but I have had the opportunity to experiment with different types of paella, which vary quite considerably, depending largely on the region of origin. And when I was challenged recently by Sola Cookware’s Willem Huisamen to try his Green Cooking range of cookware, including the 32 cm lidded paella pan, the obvious first dish to cook was paella.
So paella it was going to be. But not wanting to go totally overboard with expensive ingredients, I decided to scale down and leave out things like mussels, saffron, and crayfish. I could have abandoned the prawns as well, but then it would have been a disappointing rendition. Which is why I say it is paella on a shoestring (kind of).
The recipe given here is based on a traditional Paella Valenciana, bearing in mind that I love to use proven recipes, but seldom stick to them. So there is nothing purist about it; but I can promise it’s delicious.
Ingredients for about 8 people
2 large white onions, peeled and roughly chopped
at least four big cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
500 g (about 1 lb) raw chicken off the bone, cut into cubes
4 tbsp coconut oil (you could also use olive oil)
3 large tomatoes, chopped (I never bother to peel them)
100g (4 oz) fresh (if you can find them – or if you grow them) or frozen peas
500 g (1 lb) long grain rice (I tend to use white)
Pinch saffron (optional)
1 litre (1 3/4 pt) chicken stock (I use good quality stock cubes)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
100 g (4 oz) frozen haddock, diced (cod fillets would also work well)
1 large red pepper, deseeded and sliced into strips
Cooked prawns to garnish (buy what you can afford and xxxxxxx
Mussels, cooked (optional)
How to Make Your Spanish Paella
Start by heating the coconut oil in the paella pan. Coconut oil is quite strange if you haven’t used it before … and its liquidity depends on the weather. On a cold day you will have to dig it out of the container like lard; on a hot, sunny day you will be able to pour it like any other typical cooking oil.
Once the oil has melted and is transparent in the pan, add the chopped onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Don’t let it brown – and certainly don’t let it burn.
Then add the chopped chicken. Let it all simmer over a medium heat until the chicken changes colour and looks white. You don’t want it to cook right through because it will dry out and become tough, so stir it now and then to speed up the process.
While you are waiting for the chicken to cook, chop the tomatoes, and weigh out the peas and rice. If you are using frozen peas it’s a good idea to run them under warm water to get rid of any ice. You don’t need to defrost them totally otherwise they might become slushy.
Now add the tomatoes, peas and rice to the pan and stir. If your budget can stretch to saffron, add that now too. Don’t be tempted to add turmeric for colour; it will change the flavour.
Now add the stock. I generally add at least two stock cubes or bought stock jelly (marketed as stock pots), stir them in and add water over the top. You can also add seasoning (salt and pepper) now, or you can adjust the seasoning at the end. I am careful with salt, but quite often find that as a result I tend to under season food during the cooking process.
Preheat the oven to 220 deg C (425 deg F).
Cover the paella pan (or whatever pan you are using) and allow the chicken, rice and vegetables to simmer for about 20 minutes. Be sure that at least three-quarters of the liquid has been absorbed into the rice.
Remove the lid and add the fish pieces. Garnish with the sliced red pepper, prawns, and (if you are using them) the mussels.
Cover the pan with foil, shiny side inwards (or underneath) and pop the pan into the preheated oven for about 10 minutes.
Uncover and serve with salad and white wine straight away.
It all began when I posted an ad in our local Buy & Sell Somerset West Facebook group late last year (2014) stating that I was looking for a secondhand stainless steel wok. I had been going through a lots-of-Thai-food-cooking phase and my woks (two very basic, so-called, non-stick things) were looking a little worse for wear, and the food was tending to stick. However, my main concern was that because the coatings on them had worn off, after each wash the upper surface became covered with a very thin layer of rust. Okay, so “iron” is supposedly good for you, but this wasn’t kosher at all. And since the once bought-new stainless steel pots and pans I picked up for a song at Cash Crusaders had been going strong for at least eight years, it seemed like a no-brainer to get a stainless steel wok.
I can’t remember exactly how the scenario played out, but it started with someone in the group offering to sell me a top quality plug-in electric wok – definitely not what I was after. Then there were a couple of offers of high quality non-stick, very expensive (even though they were secondhand) Bauer cookware. Also not what I wanted. Not long after this, Willem Huisamen from Sola Cookware SA said I should be looking at his Green Cooking products. After some online banter – and a little more serious offline discussions – I agreed to review some of the cookware items he imports from Holland and sells throughout South Africa.
At this point I need to emphasize that he has made no attempt to influence my reviews in any way. I must also stress that when I agreed to what I call the Sola Cookware Challenge, I was not convinced by any of his arguments that Sola products were superior, and I was still hankering after a stainless steel wok. But it didn’t take long for me to change my mind 360 degrees.
Before launching into my “review”, I feel the need to introduce my stainless steel pots and pans, because they served me for nearly a decade.
My Stainless Steel Pots and Pans
The Sola Cookware Green Cooking wok and large pans, and my stainless steel pots and pans, have a few things in common – most obviously they are all manufactured for cooking food. Also they are both made of metal and they have glass lids. But that’s the end of it.
I concede right now that Sola’s Green Cooking range beats stainless ordinaire hands down.
The company also imports a rather more upmarket range of stainless steel pots sets than mine, but that is not part of the equation, because they don’t offer a wok!
Now, having said that my trusty stainless steel set of saucepan and pots served me for more than a decade, I have to admit that this is not entirely true. Bought as a nine-piece (which of course includes the glass lids), it is now down to eight, with one piece scarcely worth its spot in the kitchen cupboard.
My first stainless steel casualty was the pot that was the same diameter as the frying pan and I used it almost every day. Sadly it “died” about four years ago when a pinhole developed in the side of the pan. After my son tried, unsuccessfully, to spot-weld the hole to fix it, I sent the pot off with our weekly recycling.
The second casualty was the frying pan, which while basically usable, now causes food to stick, simply because the two layers of laminated metal have come apart. Ironically, that only happened a few weeks ago, well after Willem’s initial challenge. Now it really is sadly buckled and bent (as you can see from the photograph), and very close to making it into a recycling bag.
The Sola Challenge …With its Woks and Pans
While I was really only looking for an old but still usable wok, Willem Hulsamen was determined to prove a point. So along with a 36 cm Green Cooking wok, he also asked me to try cooking with the Sola 32 cm paella pan and a 28 cm (85 mm-deep) pan. Not long afterwards, he suggested I also experiment with two smaller pans, which I have done. All are part of the undoubtedly popular Green Cookware range.
For the past two months I have recorded my cooking escapade photographically and in words, and intend to share the recipes and largely step-by-step instructions in my own mini Come Dine With Me on this website.
Features of Sola Green Cookware
According to the company’s promotional material, Sola’s Green Cooking range of cookware is manufactured from forged aluminum and finished with a ceramic coating that is considerably stronger and therefore much more scratch resistant than other more common so-called non-stick coatings.
However, the company does warn on the packaging that sharp metal utensils will scratch the non-stick coating and recommend using anything that won’t scratch, including wood and various “plastics.”
The coating is made from eco-friendly materials, and is PFTE and POFA free. So here’s some detail about what this all means.
The Implications of PFTE and POFA in Cookware Coatings
PFTE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, a synthetic compound that is commonly used as a non-stick coating for cookware. The best-known brand name linked to PTFE is Teflon, a formulation made by the DuPont Company since the 1940s. While the American Cancer Society states categorically that “Teflon itself is not suspected of causing cancer,” it does warn of dangers, specifically the fact that deadly fumes are released when this cookware is overheated. People have reported getting flu-like symptoms as a result of heating Teflon to high temperatures, and birds are known to have died from the fumes. DuPont even released a brochure warning that the fumes from Teflon can kill a bird in just a few minutes. That is a chilling admission and one that makes me very happy not to be cooking with anything that contains PFTE.
PFOA, which is perfluorooctanoic acid and also referred to as C8, is, like PFTE, a manmade chemical, but it burns off during the manufacture of Teflon, and is therefore considered to be an insignificant factor in non-stick coatings. However, it is a very real health concern, particularly in the USA because it remains in the blood of people who are exposed to it, and is considered to increase the risk of tumors in animals. Even more scary is the fact that, as the American Cancer Society confirms, the long-term effects of PFOA are “largely unknown.”
The Netherlands-based manufacturers of Sola state that their non-PFTE/PFOA coating can be heated up to 400 deg F or 200 deg C. However they warn that one should never heat up an empty pan, and one should avoid very hot temperatures when cooking as this could cause the food to stick.
They also warn that the handles of the wok and pans will be damaged if the cookware is used over an open fire, and it will tend to smoke if the temperature is too high. Ultimately, very high temperatures may damage the non-stick coating.
I don’t have a means of checking the heat of woks, pots and pans I cook in, but there’s a good chance I’ve cooked at temperatures exceeding 200 deg C, and I can safely say that I have not had any problems with food sticking to the wok or any of the pans. I’m guessing that their warning is on the conservative side, just to be sure to cover their backsides if somebody does manage to cause damage. After all, all products in the Green Cooking range carry a lifetime warranty on workmanship and materials.
Cooking With Sola’s Green Cooking Woks and Pans
Thumbs up all round.
I love the wok and I love the pans – all of them. I’ve used at least one of them most days since Willem initiated the challenge, and have recorded all food cooked.
As already stated, this means I have recipes and step-by-step pix that I will be sharing on this website with anyone interested over the next few months.
I’ve chosen to cook lots of old family favourites as well as new recipes, including some of the currently “hot” Real Meal Revolution recipes featured in the Tim Noakes book that is rocking South Africa. Some of these will be presented as recipe reviews.
There is only one vaguely negative comment I want to make, and that is that the handles of the Sola wok and paella pan tend to get hot. I know it sounds like another no-brainer, but in spite of my usual common sense, I did manage to burn my fingers once. Of course the pans with longer handles don’t have this problem at all, and oven gloves work perfectly for the hot bits.
Cleaning Sola Cookware
I loathe washing dishes, but can truthfully say that cleaning the Green Cooking Sola Cookware is not an issue. Wipe excess food off; soak in warm soapy Sunlight water; rinse with cold water; dry; and voila. I don’t even bother to dry!
Of course like any decent cookware, it may be used in a dish washer, but it’s so quick and easy to clean, I haven’t bothered yet.
Coconut milk, a popular ingredient in Thai food, has gained popularity recently largely because it is a high fat, low carbohydrate food – in keeping with several diet programmes that are currently hugely popular. But canned coconut milk – and coconut cream – often contains sugar, and almost always stabilisers and preservatives.
The good news is that it is relatively easy to make your own coconut milk and coconut cream using fresh coconuts which are now sold in most supermarkets and fresh fruit and veg stores.
Found throughout the tropics and in subtropical areas, coconuts grow on the Cocos nucifera palm tree.
Like mangoes, olives, pistachios, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums and apricots, coconuts are not nuts, but drupes – a fleshy fruit with a stone or pit, sometimes called stone fruit. But while the seeds of other drupes are commonly distributed by the animals that eat the fruit and swallow the pit (or seeds), the coconut is generally too large and fibrous for them to do so, and its centre is, in any case, hollow.
Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream
When cut in half, you will see solid white-coloured “meat” inside the coconut, and liquid “water” that people often mistakenly construe to be coconut milk. Instead, both coconut milk and cream are made from the flesh (or meat) of the fruit. It can also be made from commercially prepared desiccated coconut, though this also has some sort of preservative added to it, sulphur dioxide for instance.
There are various related ways to make your own coconut milk, some people choosing to add cow’s milk (or cream if they are making coconut cream). But the international food standard from Codex Alimentarius – set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – does not advocate the addition of dairy products. Of course there’s nothing to stop you from using dairy products to make your own coconut milk and cream, but it does seem unnecessary.
The Codex Standard (CODEX STAN 240-2003) applies to all packaged (in other words commercial) coconut milk and coconut cream products that are prepared by using:
Whole, separated, macerated, disintegrated or “comminuted fresh endosperm” (which is the kernel) of the coconut palm with potable water and sometimes with coconut water as well, but without the fibres.
Potable water together with coconut cream powder.
Potable water with finely “comminuted” coconut endosperms that have been dehydrated.
A combination of these methods.
The coconut and water is then processed using heat before it is “hermetically sealed in a container” ready for distribution.
The standard also specifies the different types (or styles) of coconut cream and milk.
Light Coconut Milk (sometimes labelled Lite)
Coconut Cream Concentrate
Light Coconut Milk
This is made either from the lower part of the “centrifuged” coconut milk (that has been separated by centrifugal force) or by diluting coconut milk with coconut water or water. Must contain at least 5 percent fat.
This is described as “the dilute emulsion of comminuted coconut endosperm (kernel) in water.” Must contain at least 10 percent fat.
This is the emulsion that is taken from the “matured endosperm” or kernel of the fruit to which water or coconut water may or may be added. Must contain at least 20 percent fat.
Coconut Cream Concentrate
A concentrated product that is manufactured by partially removing the water from the coconut cream (above). Must contain at least 29 percent fat.
The Codex Standard also details what food additives may be used for commercially produced coconut milk and coconut cream, including:
stabilizers and thickeners
How to Make Coconut Milk and Cream
As we all become increasingly aware of the effects that many food additives have, the trend is turning back towards homemade and healthy food without preservatives and things like “bleaching agents.” While only one type of preservative may be used in terms of the Standard, sodium benzoate, this is an additive that many people are highly allergic to.
So if you have the time and energy, why not make your own coconut milk? It is time consuming and quite hard work, but it is highly rewarding.
First you will need to dehusk the coconut; at this stage the legendary face-like markings at its base will become evident. Then peel the coconut and rinse it thoroughly. Slice in half and drain the coconut water into a bowl.
Now cut the fleshy fruit (meat) into chunks and place in the jug of a good quality electric blender. Add a litre of warm water (including the coconut water). The coconut will become thick and milky.
Drain the liquidized coconut through cheesecloth into a bowl or some other container. Squeeze the last part using your hands. Your homemade coconut milk will last in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. If the fat begins to separate from the milk, stir or shake.
You can use coconut milk for cooking or as an ingredient in smoothies and other drinks. Enjoy.