Sasha Seymour: Coconut is a remarkable ingredient. It's versatile to use, tastes great and is proving to be an invaluable health food in the fight against a host of western illnesses from candida to dementia. I never tire of the taste because it can be used in so many ways. I make a batch of the Sweet and Spicy Popcorn about three times a week as a snack.
H&H: Your new cookbook, Coconut Every Day (2014, Penguin Canada Books), is a collection of recipes that use various coconut-based ingredients (flour, oil, sugar, etc.). How, and why, did you start using coconut in place of standard ingredients, like wheat flours and cane sugar?
SS: I have always been interested in food and how it relates to our health. I started reading about good substitutes for white sugar and learned about coconut sugar, started using it in my morning coffee and it grew from there. The more I used coconut products, the more I realized how much wheat and sugar we eat on a daily basis. I'm not suggesting that we all cut out every bit of wheat and sugar, but mixing things up a bit can't be a bad thing: more variety means better health!
H&H: What tips do you have for substituting coconut into a recipe? Is there an easy place to start? Which of your recipes would you suggest beginning with?
SS: Coconut oil can be used as a substitute for any fat in almost any recipe, and if you are substituting it for butter in a recipe, you should actually use about 15% less. I'd recommend baking with it first, I think, because coconut products offer the most benefit as a substitute in baked goods. The Peanut Butter Coconut Cookies are fun to make and good to eat, and the brownies and chocolate pudding are pretty darn decadent, too.
H&H: What is your favourite ingredient to pair with coconut? Is there a type of meal that you think really lends itself to coconut substitutions?
SS: I can't pick only one ingredient to pair with coconut! Breakfast is a good meal to start adding coconut. It is loaded with fibre, is relatively low in carbs. You can also use coconut to make much healthier versions of comfort foods like shepherds' pie and fried chicken and biscuits.
H&H: The images in the cookbook look delicious, as a food stylist, what tips can you share for making a beautiful looking table when entertaining friends?
SS: I have a drawer in my kitchen that I cleared of all the kitchen stuff I rarely used. I've used the drawer to store an "entertaining kit" with platters and little bowls and vintage things I've collected and love. When I pull things out of that drawer it puts me in a good mood and makes easy work of setting the table in a way that always makes me happy. My other big tip is always have a generous appetizer/nibble spread out when guests come. It makes them feel welcome and gives you a bit of time to host without worrying about starving them!