Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Experiments with coconut milk (successful and not-so-successful)

I really like coconut. Both in sweet dishes, such as wattalapam, black rice pudding and coconut ice cream, and in savoury dishes such as potato and pea curry and vegetable laksa. (There are links to a bunch of my favourite coconutty recipes here.) This week I tried a couple of experiments with coconut milk.

The successful ...

I'd never cooked with agar-agar before (it's like a vegetarian version of gelatine) but found some recently in a health food shop and decided to try making a coconut 'jelly'. Simple and delicious! I boiled 400 ml of (tinned) coconut milk with 5 grams of agar-agar powder, in a saucepan, for five minutes, then poured it into dishes to cool. Yum. I didn't add anything to sweeten the mixture, as I find coconut milk naturally sweet, but you could add some palm sugar or honey if you liked.

The recipe above made two dainty cups of coconut jelly

... and the less successful

Coconut yoghurt. Hmmmm. I usually make Easiyo yoghurt for breakfasts at home, as it is quick and easy, plus cheaper and less plastic-waste-producing than buying ready-made pots of yoghurt from the supermarket. On a recent holiday (separated from my Easiyo incubator) I bought a pot of coconut yoghurt ... that is, yoghurt made with coconut milk rather than cow's milk. I liked it and wondered how I could make it at home. A YouTube video suggested that you could make coconut yoghurt with just two ingredients: (tinned) coconut milk and probiotic (acidophilus and bifidus) capsules. I tried and failed. When I checked the 'yoghurt' after two days of incubation and one of refrigeration it was clearly dodgy. Grey and frothy and foul-smelling. A little reminiscent of a bad batch of camembert from my cheese-making days.

What went wrong? (As my partner Andrew would say ... 'are we not scientists?')

The video said to use two probiotic capsules with 600 ml of coconut milk, and to incubate the mixture for about two days then refrigerate for four. My tins of coconut milk were 400 ml each so I used 800 ml of coconut milk and 3 probiotic capsules. So maybe the quantities were wrong. Other possible sources of the failure include:

  • bacterial contamination  I had washed, but not boiled, the jar used to incubate the mixture
  • timing  it takes between 8 and 24 hours to incubate a litre of Easiyo yoghurt in the Easiyo maker, so perhaps 48 hours was too long
  • incorrect probiotics  we don't usually buy supplements, whether vitamins or probiotics. So maybe the capsules I bought (which boasted prebiotics as well as probiotics) were inappropriate for the purpose?

Ah well. Failures happen! We don't have a compost bin and I doubt the inhabitants of our worm farm would want to eat spoiled yoghurt. So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to dig a hole in the garden to bury the stinking, bubbly mess ...!

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