Last week, Dawn and I escaped the steamy confines of the MoKL Kitchen and headed up to the Good Housekeeping Institute in London’s Soho for the launch of this lovely new cookbook of coconut oil recipes by Lucy Bee.
The event included live cooking demonstrations from nutritionist Christine Bailey – together with tastings of delicious banana pancakes, Chorizo and Chicken Paella, and a mango lassi (all of which can be found in the book).
While we were waiting for the demonstrations to start, I also had my first experience of a Bulletproof Coffee – espresso whizzed with coconut oil and unsalted butter – supposedly the ultimate pre-workout drink. It was surprisingly good and left my lips feeling nicely moisturised afterwards – a lip balm in a cup!
In between food tasting we were also treated to coconut oil hand massages by beauty therapists from the London College of Beauty Therapy. It’s a hard life being a food blogger.
As someone who has never ever cooked with (or indeed used) coconut oil before, the event opened my eyes to the versatility of this amazing product – not just for culinary uses, but also as a treatment for hair and skin and as a natural teeth whitener and mouth cleanser.
As for the food, I have to admit, it was also the first time I’d actually knowingly tasted anything cooked using coconut oil. Despite having a jar in my cupboard for the past few weeks, I think I’ve subconsciously put off using it, because I’ve been worried that everything would end up tasting of coconut (although given that the kids love coconut, this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem). That certainly wasn’t the case with the dishes we tasted at the launch, and every one received a resounding thumbs-up. I’m itching to get into the kitchen to try out some of the recipes for myself.
Dawn has already been busy trying out the Chorizo & Chicken Paella recipe. Read what the kids thought in her review here. In her words: “I have three different types of coconut oil in my cupboard (not sure how that happened) and I really do prefer the taste of Lucy Bee’s. I don’t really know why it tastes different but it definitely has a lighter taste and I would use this brand in this dish again”
Why use coconut oil in your cooking?
Coconut oil is a good choice for cooking children’s food because as a saturated fat, it’s heat stable, which means it doesn’t change its properties and break down when heated. From a health and nutrition perspective that makes it one of the safest oils to cook with (unlike polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil that are damaged by heating).
Coconut oil also has a high lauric acid content- around 48%. Lauric acid is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA). Quick chemistry lesson: the chemical structure of MCFAs allows the body to absorb them whole, which makes them more easily digestible. And because of the way the body processes them, they are a source of direct energy. “MCFAs are immediately converted by your liver into energy rather than being stored as fat,” explains nutrionalist Susannah Lawson. For a quick energy boost, you could simply feed your kids a spoonful of coconut oil, or add it to their food.
Lauric acid is also found in breast milk and is said to be full of health-boosting properties; your body converts it into monolaurin, which has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Meanwhile, another fatty acid found in coconut oil – caprylic acid – has anti-yeast properties and is used to support the immune system. It’s also said to boost brain performance in children and help with anxiety.
However, as Christine Bailey warns, it’s worth remembering it’s still a fat and therefore should be used in moderation. Both the American Heart Association (AHA) and US government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that like all saturated fats, its consumption should be limited to 7%-10% of calories.
It’s also important to bear in mind that despite claims of its wide-ranging benefits, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support them. The US FDA prohibits manufacturers from advertising “drug claims” that support the use of coconut oil for therapeutic purposes.
Coconut Oil: Nature’s Perfect Ingredient by Lucy Bee is published by Quadrille, £15. Photography: Ria Osborne