Lucy Buckingham was diagnosed as coeliac (a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by an intolerance to gluten) when she was 18 months old. Her family embraced a healthier lifestyle from then on, so Buckingham grew up accustomed to cooking from scratch with all-natural ingredients, and developed a knack for adapting recipes to fit her healthy diet. When her family learned about the properties of coconut oil in 2007 via a friend from Hong Kong, it was as if they’d found ‘the missing piece’ in the puzzle of health food replacements – and the rest is history.
Buckingham, her parents and siblings launched the family company Lucy Bee in 2012 to produce natural coconut oil products that didn’t cost the earth. Since then, the firm has gone from strength to strength, with everyone from healthy chefs and food bloggers such as Body Coach Joe Wicks singing its praises.
Now, Buckingham has launched a cookbook, Coconut Oil: Nature’s Perfect Ingredient (Quadrille, £15). The book offers 100-plus recipes for breakfast ideas, snacks, family-friendly meals and desserts, including delicious offerings such as Quinoa-stuffed mushrooms, Sautéed squid and Cacao banana lollies.
But why do the Buckingham family and many others think coconut oil is such an amazing ingredient? New research suggests the type of saturated fat in coconut oil is more beneficial to our health than previously believed. Unprocessed coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides, rather than the more usual long-chain triglycerides. The medium-chain variety is easier for the body to digest and burn off, meaning less should get stored as fat. Saturated fatty acids also pack together tightly, making this oil extremely stable, even when exposed to heat and light, and perfect to use for general cooking. ‘Lucy Bee oil is unrefined and unprocessed, which is crucial to our brand,’ says Buckingham. ‘Very little heat has been used during the extraction process, so the oil also retains its maximum nutritional benefits. And don’t worry if you don’t like the taste of coconut – the coconut flavour tends to get lost when you cook with it.’ Kitchen here we come!
Quick tip: As much as I love using Lucy Bee coconut oil, there’s still a place in my kitchen for good-quality extra virgin olive oil for whipping up delicious dressings,’ says Buckingham.
KERALA FISH CURRY
Per serving: 241 calories, 15g fat (13g saturated fat), 23g protein, 1.5g fibre, 3g carbohydrate (2g sugar), 1.3g salt
- 1 tbsp coconut oil, such as Lucy Bee
- 2.5cm cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- Seeds of 2 cardamom pods
- 5 black peppercorns
- 2 shallots, finely sliced
- 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
- 7 fresh curry leaves
- 1½ tsp ginger paste
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- Good pinch of Himalayan salt
- 100ml water
- 100ml coconut milk
- Squeeze of lime juice
- 80g green beans, topped and tailed
- 250g firm white flesh fish fillets, such as hake, haddock or pollock, cubed or cut into bite-sized pieces
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, add the whole spices and cook until they release their fragrant aromas.
- Add the shallots, give everything a stir for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and curry leaves and soften for a few minutes until the shallots are translucent.
- Stir in the ginger paste, turmeric, salt and water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about seven minutes until nicely reduced.
- Add the coconut milk, squeeze in the lime juice, bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of 4 minutes. Add the green beans and fish fillets, just covering with the sauce. Simmer gently until the fish is cooked through, 4–5 minutes. Serve with brown rice.
TIP: Any fish with firm, white flesh works well in this dish but, for a treat, use monkfish fillets or add a few extra prawns
AUTUMN VEGETABLE TAGINE
If you want to cook this in a tagine, use one with a cast-iron base and place it on the hob rather than in the oven. The liquid in the tagine condenses as it hits the cooler, conical-shaped lid, but if you place the tagine in the oven, the lid will heat up, so it won’t work in quite the same way. Serves: 4 Per serving: 300 calories, 13g fat (9g saturated fat), 10g protein, 12g fibre, 30g carbohydrate (14g sugar), 0.8g salt.
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika
- ½ tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Seeds of 2 cardamom pods
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 40g coconut, such as Lucy Bee, melted
- 2 medium carrots, cut into wedges
- ½ butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ small cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 aubergine, cut into 2cm cubes
- 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
- 500ml hot vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
- Himalayan salt and ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Put the spices, garlic, lemon juice and coconut oil (you may need to melt it over a gentle heat first) in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, then mix. Add the vegetables and mix thoroughly to coat.
- Heat a large flameproof casserole over a medium heat, add the vegetables and sauté for a few minutes, stirring every now and then. Add the chickpeas, stock and sun-dried tomato paste, give everything a good stir, then cover and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the flavours have infused. Switch off the oven, leaving the casserole inside to rest for a few minutes, then transfer to a tagine for serving. If using a tagine to cook the food, reduce the amount of stock to 250ml and leave to simmer on the hob at the lowest possible heat for 2½ hours.
- Ladle into deep bowls and serve with a spoonful of yoghurt and a scattering of herbs on top, with flatbreads alongside.
COURGETTI AND PRAWNS
Per serving: 665 calories, 46g fat, (18.5g saturated fat) 36g protein, 7g fibre, 22g carbohydrate (17g sugar), 3g salt.
- 300g courgettes, trimmed
- 200g carrots, peeled
- 30g coconut oil, such as Lucy Bee
- 30g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- ½ red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 24 raw prawns, peeled and deveined (tails on)
- 10 spring onions, very finely chopped
FOR THE DRESSING
- 40ml sesame oil
- 30g cashew nuts
- 20ml tamari sauce
- Juice of 2 limes
- 40ml rice wine vinegar
- 10ml agave nectar
- Blitz the dressing ingredients together in a blender, adding a drop of water to loosen it if necessary. Using a spiraliser, make ‘spaghetti’ from the courgettes and carrots. If you don’t have one, cut the courgettes and carrots lengthways as thinly as possible, then across into fine strands.
- Heat the coconut oil in a wok or heavy-based frying pan. Add the ginger, chilli and garlic and cook for one minute, stirring occasionally. Add the prawns and cook until they just turn pink, stirring every now and again. Remove from the pan.
- Add the courgettes and carrots to the pan, then add the dressing. Mix everything together well to coat in the dressing. Cook gently for a further minute. Serve immediately, with the spring onions and prawns piled on top.
TIP: Courgetti, or spaghetti made from courgettes, gives you extra fibre plus it contains nutrients such as vitamin C.
HEALTHY COOKING TIPS
- Wherever you would use oil or butter in cooking, you can substitute it with coconut oil. I find using twenty five per cent less than the listed amount of butter works just fine.
- Coconut oil also has a special kind of sweetness that means you can cut down the sugar you use in a recipe by a third, but it doesn’t make savoury things taste sweet.
- As well as using coconut oil instead of butter in baking, try using almond milk instead of cow’s milk and substituting a mixture of gluten-free flours, such as coconut and almond flours, instead of plain flour.
- While you can use unsweetened cocoa powder in recipes, cacao is much better for you as it retains all its nutrients and antioxidants (the beans aren’t roasted).
- I love pancakes and make them healthier by using either quinoa flakes, buckwheat flour (despite the name this is actually a fruit seed and is gluten-free) or oats.
Coconut Oil: Nature’s Perfect Ingredient is by Lucy Bee (Quadrille, £15).