I am fond of both coconut and strawberries, yet their presence in the same dessert has never crossed my mind. Either I have been inattentive in past years or coconut and strawberry flavoured sweets are in fashion particularly this season. Inspired by so many tempting recipes I saw on favourite blogs, I couldn’t resist testing this combination and now consider coconut as one of the strawberry’s best friends.
As a basis I have used here one of my favourite light sweet treats: coconut and cow milk wobbly dessert set with agar (see my other experiments with it below), called “cream” because it’s closer to a cream than to a jelly. I have cut up some strawberries, covered them with the coconut mixture, chilled and served with a layer of strawberry coulis. The result was fantastic. The strawberry and coconut milk (diluted with cow milk) compliment each other, without being too overwhelming (the thing I feared most). The fruits’ tanginess is a pleasant change from the mellow, sweet wobbly creamy basis, while the coulis adds an additional texture and makes the dessert more appealing. In short, this is what I call a perfect summer dessert: quick, easy, light, refreshing and featuring one of my favourite seasonal fruits.
If you are familiar with jellies set with agar, you might think what you see above is a jelly. I am not very fond of thick jellies (the kind that can hold alone when placed on a plate), this is why all of my agar desserts contain a tiny amount of this gelling product. This way the obtained result is a delicate wobbly custard, falling off the spoon (see the TIPS below).
Agar-agar (“kanten” in Japanese), apparently meaning “jelly” in Malay, is a gelatinous substance obtained from certain seaweed varieties, usually sold in a form of powder or in long sticks (I always use the powdered form which seems easier to handle). It has been used by food industry all around the world and has been gaining popularity in Western households probably thanks to its vegetable origins and to its health benefits. In fact agar-agar contains water soluble agents, which help digestion and are considered excellent in slimming diets. Even though some people say agar-agar is a gelatin equivalent, I cannot agree with it. It sets food in a different way.
In case you are interested in coconut desserts set with agar, here are some of my previous experiments (none of them is a thick jelly though; they are all light wobbly custardy creams):
Talking about refreshing seasonal desserts… you might also like this Strawberry and Yogurt Mousse (it’s funny how two different strawberry varieties produce different coulis colours! I have realised it only now comparing the two photos):
TIPS: Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is supposed to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.
Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into the bowls because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly! On the other hand do not pour the very hot cream because it will “boil” the strawberries. Leave the mixture until it is warmer than room temperature, but not very hot.
Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge
Ingredients (serves 5):
250 ml/about 1 cup coconut milk
250 ml/about 1 cup cow milk
4 flat tablespoons sugar (I have put only 2 but I like moderately sweet desserts)
1/3 flat teaspoon agar agar in powder
10 medium strawberries
10 medium strawberries
5 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar (not necessary; I don’t add any sugar if the strawberries are sweet)
Dissolve the sugar and agar-agar in the mixture of the two milks. Bring to boil and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute.
Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.
(Do not wait until the cream becomes cold because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!).
Cut up the 10 strawberries into cubes and distribute evenly among the bowls.
Pour the warm (not hot but not room temperature yet) creamy mixture over the fruit pieces and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Just before serving prepare the coulis: mix the strawberries and the confectioner’s sugar (or no sugar if the strawberries are ripe and sweet).
Serve very cold covered with a layer of strawberry coulis and sprinkled with dessicated coconut.