Coconut Christmas: a Fiji twist
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
An easy recipe and a glorious Christmas chorus...
I'm a sentimental traditionalist when it comes to Christmas food, particularly Christmas pudding. Most years I make my grandmother's Yorkshire recipe in November, steaming it for eight hours until the unpromising ingredients of stale bread, carrots, stout and beef suet transmute as if by alchemy. Okay, there are eggs, spices and dried fruit, too. Six weeks later I steam the pudding for an hour or so to heat it up and it always seems miraculous when I turn the richly smelling, lustrous pud onto the plate, ready for dousing in flaming brandy.
But when I lived in Fiji where the Christmas weather was oppressively hot and humid, I gave up making my pudding recipe for the duration. Sometimes we took ourselves off to a resort where coconut palms shade the beach, like Caqelai. Other times I made various cold confections including coconut custard.
Coconut custard recipe
I adapted this recipe from one in the Fiji Times. You can serve coconut custard hot or cold, thick or runny, on pudding, cake and even ice cream. It also makes a great solo dessert, with added tropical fruit like banana, papaya, passionfruit, pineapple or anything. The coconut milk adds a tropical twist which I know you'll enjoy.
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup fresh or canned coconut milk
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out, bean and seeds reserved
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch (less for a thin custard)
2 teaspoons rum or brandy
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Combine the milk, coconut milk and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan; bring to a simmer over low heat.
2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan, set it over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
3. Cook on low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, remove the vanilla bean and whisk in the rum and vanilla extract.
4. Grate Fiji nutmeg over the top. This custard is equally delicious hot, warm or cold.
Fiji sings Handel's Messiah
I think Handel would have been astonished but pleased to know that a choir from Kadavu, Fiji's most southerly island, would sing his transcendent Messiah almost three centuries after its first performance in Dublin. Here the Kadavu Choir sings one of Messiah's choruses, And the Glory of the Lord, in the Centenary Church, Suva. Although this isn't a professional recording, I know you'll enjoy the fervent performance., which echoes my own hearty good wishes for your own celebrations and for 2021.
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