Last week I published a recipe for coconut and cardamom rice pudding. I had some lovely feedback. A friend sent a video of his 18-month old saying that the rice pudding was yummy. My Dad decided to make it for the old peoples lunch club that he cooks for. 16 elderly people enjoyed it with stewed plums for pudding after a Jamie Oliver chicken pie for main course – apparently it went down a treat.
Others have been in touch to ask whether they can use coconut milk instead of coconut cream? It helped me realise that I have never been clear on the differences between creamed coconut, coconut cream and coconut milk. So I’ve spent time researching and I want to share with you what I have discovered.
Creamed coconut is made from mature coconut flesh which has been ground up, dehydrated and compressed into a block shape. It’s then wrapped in plastic and sold in a block. You sometimes see that it has separated a little with the fat gathering at one end.
Creamed coconut is ideal to use when you need a coconut flavour but you don’t want additional liquid, as coconut cream or milk would add to your recipe. You can roughly chop it or grate it into whatever you are cooking, for example a curry or custard.
You can use creamed coconut to make coconut cream and coconut milk. You just dissolve the creamed coconut in the right amount of hot water.
So for coconut cream add:
1 part creamed coconut with 2½ parts water (100 g / 3½ oz creamed coconut + 250 ml of hot water);
and for coconut milk add:
1 part creamed coconut with 4 – 5 parts water (100 g / 3½ oz creamed coconut + 400 ml of hot water).
Coconut cream and milk are made from grating the flesh of a mature coconut and mixing this with water. Less water gives coconut cream and more water gives coconut milk.
Coconut cream is similar to coconut milk, but is thicker and creamy. I like using coconut cream. You get a more intense flavour and creamy consistency than coconut milk plus some liquid added to the recipe which works well for these dishes – coconut and cardamom rice pudding and couscous, ginger and spring onion salad. The fat in the cream, and yes it is mainly saturated fat, will all collect at the top of the carton. So if you open it at the bottom it will be easier to pour the cream out.
Coconut milk. If you are making a curry then coconut milk is probably what you will use. It will give you a backdrop flavour of coconut and add liquid as well to the curry. It’s a less pronounced flavour than coconut cream. Again the fat in the milk will collect at the top of the tin, so turn it upside down before opening it to make it a little easier to get the milk out. You can buy light coconut milk. But I have had some disappointing results with light coconut milk, so I would suggest buying the real stuff and not eating it often if you are worried about calories.
Making coconut milk into coconut cream:
Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan and boil until about half the liquid has evaporated. You should be left with a thicker creamy consistency that is coconut cream. In theory you could keep on boiling until all the liquid has evaporated and you would be left with about 100g/3½oz of creamed coconut. I haven’t tried this, but would love to hear from you if you know it works.
Lastly just for completeness, there is also coconut water. This is the liquid inside a young green coconut. It’s delicious to drink, especially straight from the coconut. Some people drink it as a natural energy drink. It would probably be delicious in a smoothie or cocktail, but I have yet to do anything else than just enjoy it by itself.