Fat is incredibly fashionable. Pope Francis, I concede: There really must be a God.
It turns out that all saturated fats are not equal. Each saturated fat has its own structure and their individual differences influence the way they work in your body. (Scientists, look away while I mutilate your language). Several saturated fats, called medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are metabolised more like carbohydrates than fats, and quickly used for energy. Coconut oil is the best example, favoured by sporting magnates like Gordon D'Arcy.
Pure palm oil is another good example, but tricky to find unprocessed. This is because pure palm oil is bright red and alarmingly whiffy. Industry moguls prefer to deodorise and bleach palm oil, making it more palatable but at the same time, disfiguring the oil's health benefits.
Expect to get 8g of MCT in one tablespoon of extra-virgin coconut oil. Butter will deliver 1-2g. Bulletproof Coffee relies upon a distinctive MCT oil, which is pure diesel for our mitochondria at 14g MCT per tablespoon. It is, of course, created in a lab with isolated extracts of coconut and palm oils, so has not won a place on my virtuous pedestal. Nevertheless, I'm interested in its cult following and the impossibly delicious athletes who are thriving on it.
Coconut oil's real talent lies with its immune-boosting compounds like lauric and caprylic acid. The predominant MCT in coconut oil is lauric acid, known for its mega antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Think Ninjago in a tub. Much of the research on lauric and caprylic acids have shown that many pathogens can be deactivated by these particular MCTs. These same MCTs are found in mama's milk to give her baby the best start in life. Snazzy, eh?
Makes 12-15 cookies
A note for wily mums; you can replace some of the ground almonds with milled flaxseed, to inject some omega-3 artillery into your little ones.
You will need:
4 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
90g (3.5oz) ground almonds
1 tablespoon ground ginger
Pinch of unrefined salt
Gently melt the coconut oil in your smallest pan over a low flame.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the remaining ingredients; the maple syrup, the almonds, some ginger and a pinch of salt.
Scrape the mixture onto a sheet of baking parchment. Press it into a ball, then place another sheet of parchment over it and flatten with a pastry rolling pin. You're looking for a couple of millimetres in depth.
Transfer the tray to the freezer for 10 minutes, until barely set. Alternatively, you can freeze for up to three months and let thaw for 10 minutes before cutting into shapes. Choose a cookie cutter and off you go!
We store ready-to-eat gingerbread men in the freezer, waiting for unexpected playdates and midnight munchies. No need to cook. Devour from frozen. Exquisite little things altogether.