If I were to put together a collective list of goodies that had me reminiscing my childhood then coconut ice would certainly be among the favourites. Perhaps it’s the fact that being simple to make, it was one of the few things that my mother dared to let me have a go at in the kitchen or the that it was half pink and half white, which seemed quite magical to a younger me. Pink food! All that paired with my deep, shared affection for coconut and condensed milk is why it surprises even myself that I haven’t thought to make some since. Sometimes I wonder where I’ve lost my brain to.
On this occasion I found it in the bottom of a Fairway shopping bag that my boss had bought for the days prep. A plastic container with tiny white squares labeled “French coconut cubes”. French??! Well, that would explain the lack of pink food colouring present and the measly portions but honestly must the French claim all food as their own culinary ingenuity? Coconut ice is most definitely British by my books and it is far too rarely seen for that matter. Perfect as petit-fours, at afternoon tea, kids parties- I don’t really see an occasion when it wouldn’t be appropriate to serve them.
For those unfamiliar readers, coconut ice has nothing to do with ice cream but rather is a mixture of shredded coconut, condensed milk and icing sugar that when mixed together becomes stiff and utterly divine. Traditionally, (in England) half of the mixture is died pink and then the white and pink mixtures are layered to give you a two-toned effect. Using shredded rather than dessicated coconut is important in this magical equation because it keeps it juicy and so wonderfully chewy that you may begin to think that you’re eating something healthy. Don’t kid yourself. I would find it hard to justify these as healthy but the onset of mild jaw discomfort from heavy-duty chewing should prevent you from eating more than you should in one sitting.
This recipe is what I like to think of as a grown-up version of coconut ice. Gone is the pink food colouring, because I now find the idea of eating hot pink food less magical and more repellent and in comes a spattering of dried apricots to break up the grainy texture and add a new twist. I bet the French never thought of that! Of course, even with the apricots these still remain a highly sugary treat and should only be consumed in moderation, whatever your individual levels of moderation may be.
Coconut and Apricot Ice
Unlike many coconut ice recipes I kept this on the softer side, which is why it works well with the squidgy apricots. I think coconut pairs well with many things and I suggest you play around- try adding chopped pecans, toasting your coconut or even go the traditional kid-friendly route and add a drop of food colouring to half a batch.
Makes: roughly 36 squares or one 23cm/9 inch tins worth
Difficulty: Sharing is the hard part.
1 x 397g tin condensed milk
280g/ 2 cups plus 2 tbsp icing sugar (confectioners sugar), sifted
340g/4 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
140g/ 5 oz dried apricots (squidgy ones, not dried out ones), chopped
1/ Line a 23cm/9inch square cake tin with cling-film. I find the best way to do this is to spray the tin with cooking spray before laying down the cling-film, which gives it something to stick to. Mix together the condensed milk and icing sugar until combined. Stir in the coconut all at once.
2/ Divide into two bowls and stir the chopped apricots through one of the bowls of coconut mixture.
3/ Spread the apricot and coconut mixture evenly over the base of the lined tin and press down gently. Top with the plain coconut topping and again press down gently. Allow to sit out uncovered for a couple of hours before slicing into squares.