Keepin' Kosher: Cream of the crop

Learn how to use coconut milk, a parve product that actually tastes good and is healthy.

coconut milk beef 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
coconut milk beef 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘Prove it to me that kosher can taste just as good!” was the challenging request from a top Israeli food magazine writer that came to visit me at the Jerusalem Culinary Institute this past summer.
This writer is feared by many formidable Israeli chefs and restaurateurs that come under her fork and she isn’t at all bashful to make her comments known to the public that “swallow” her every word.
Whether she knew it or not, she was just about to experience my “kosher” counterattack, because I had a few good tricks up my sleeve.
The following week she returned for lunch arriving with her pen, paper and camera. And then I placed the plate before her – Veal Scaloppini with a crispy Parmesan crust served with Duchesse Sweet potatoes and a Wild Mushroom Stroganoff (all fully kosher, of course). She looked around the plate, took her knife and fork poised to strike and then took her first bite. Her eyes widened just like the character Anton Ego, the feared and revered food critic from the movie Ratatouille. She raised her head and with a smile confessed that she couldn’t taste anything with strange undertones.
The world of kosher cooking has experienced a major revolution over the past decade with the availability of so many new kosher products. This provides the most novice chefs with the tools to play around with many types of dishes previously not available to the kosher chef such as Fusion, Organic or even something as far out as Peruvian cuisine.
“What are some of these interesting ingredients?” I hear you say as you grab your apron ready to cook. Let’s start with a parve milk based product that is not soya, something that really doesn’t come under my top 10 list of favorite ingredients.
Soya-based creamers taste rather synthetic to me with a noticeable sweet undertone that masks the food being prepared. So, what is the solution? Coconut milk! Coconut milk is a sweet, milky white cooking base derived from the flesh of a mature coconut. The color and rich taste of the milk can be attributed to the high oil content and sugars. The term coconut milk is not the same as coconut water (coconut juice), which is the naturally occurring liquid found inside the hollow coconut.
Coconut milk is considered very healthy in Ayurveda, and in modern times has been found to have cholesterol reducing properties. Coconut milk is a common ingredient in many regional ethnic cuisines most notably those of Southeast Asia. Coconut milk is the base of many Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai curries.
I find that when making cream-based sauces I like to dilute the coconut milk with two parts water. That way I lose the coconut taste, but retain the creamy finish. Now, I am free to make béchamel type sauces for pasta dishes like lasagna and Fettuccini Alfredo.
For the Mushroom Stroganoff
✔ 1 Tbsp olive oil
✔ 1⁄2 onion, finely chopped
✔ 125 gr. white mushrooms, quartered
✔ 1 tsp. paprika
✔ 75 ml. white wine
✔ 125 ml. coconut milk and water combined
✔ Salt and freshly ground black pepper
✔ Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
✔ 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
For the Garlic Bruschetta
✔ 2 slices white bread
✔ 4 Tbsp olive oil
✔ 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
For the Seared Beef:
✔ 150 gr. entrecote
✔ 1 Tbsp olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
2. For the mushroom stroganoff, heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onion until it starts to soften.
3. Add the mushrooms and paprika and continue to fry for 4-5 minutes.
4. Add the white wine and simmer until slightly reduced, then pour in the coconut milk and bring to simmering point. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the lemon juice and chives.
5. For the bruschetta, heat an ovenproof griddle pan until smoking hot. Drizzle the bread with olive oil and sprinkle over the garlic. Place in the pan, weighing the bread down with a saucepan. Grill until the bread is golden-brown on each side. Remove from the pan, but leave the pan on the heat.
6. Rub the beef with olive oil and place in the hot griddle pan. Sear the beef quickly on each side and then transfer the pan to the oven to continue cooking for about five minutes, or until cooked to your liking. Remove from the oven and leave to in a warm place for a few minutes.
7. To serve, cut both slices of grilled bread in half and arrange the four pieces on a plate. Pour over the mushroom stroganoff.
8. Slice the beef and arrange in a fan over the top of the mushrooms.
Makes 2 cups
A true French classic custard that goes great with an apple and cinnamon crisp
✔ 2 large eggs
✔ 60 gr. sugar
✔ 1 vanilla bean or a dash of vanilla extract
✔ Pinch of salt
✔ 13⁄4 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
✔ 1⁄2 cup water
1. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Put eggs, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until pale and thick, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Bring the coconut milk and water to a boil in a medium saucepan; remove from the heat.

3. With mixer on low speed, gradually pour half of the hot-milk mixture into egg mixture. Return mixture to pan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and draw a line with your finger, about 5 minutes. Pass mixture through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Place bowl in icewater bath; stir Crème Anglaise occasionally until chilled.
Yochanan Lambiase is the founder of the Jerusalem Culinary Institute,