For an authentic taste and texture I used cacao nibs ground in a spice or coffee grinder. Good quality cocoa powder can also be used.
Servings 4
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes


  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs or cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup short grain white rice or quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 400 g can Trade Aid coconut milk
  • 1 orange or tangerine leaf or long strip of orange zest
  • 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup or sugar


  • If using cacao nibs grind them in a spice grinder until they have the texture of fine coffee. Open the can of coconut milk and scoop 1/2 cup of the thick creamed coconut from the top into a bowl. Cover and chill while preparing the rice.
  • Put the rice and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. If using the orange/tangerine leaf crush lightly with your hand and add to the pan – or the strip of orange zest. Pour in the remaining coconut milk. Simmer for 10 minutes until the rice is tender.
  • Stir through the ground cacao or cocoa powder. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until thickened. Add maple syrup or sugar to desired sweetness – a little bitterness is good as the coconut cream is sweet. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little and thicken. Spoon into four bowls and dollop each with Tangerine Cream – recipe follows.

Tangerine Coconut Cream

1/2 cup creamed coconut – reserved from making rice pudding

Zest of 1 small tangerine or orange

2 tablespoons tangerine or orange juice

1-2 teaspoons maple syrup or mild honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Remove the bowl of creamed coconut from the fridge. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. This cream won’t be fluffy like whipped dairy cream, more billowy in texture. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

I love a good food memory. One, that when the food is eaten, transports us to a time and place as if it were only yesterday. Being a foodie I have many dishes that do this, however, this recipe in particular takes me back 12 years to when I spent a fortnight travelling around Samoa.

The first thing I do when visiting a new place is to search out the real food of a culture. Not the high street restaurants and resorts, but the early morning food markets and homestays, where meals are prepared in a deep-rooted rhythm of generations. Back to a time when recipes were learned by simply being in the kitchen and cooking together.

Memorable dishes from that trip around the Samoan islands include Palusami – coconut cooked in taro leaves; Oka – raw fish salad; and Koko Alaisa – cocoa rice pudding (often served for breakfast). This simple dish is made from grated Samoan cacao bean (koko), white rice (alaisa), orange leaf (laumoli), fresh coconut milk or evaporated milk, and sweetened to taste.

The secret is in the orange leaf. Like kaffir lime leaves, all citrus tree leaves have an exquisite citrus aroma. Although milder than kaffir, any citrus leaf added to a dish offers a subtle flavour that is hard to replicate with zest alone – although this can be used as a substitute. Orange, tangerine, tangelo, mandarin, clementine: any orange-skinned citrus can be used.

When recreating a recipe from warmer climes, I am always grateful for the wonderful selection of quality imported ingredients now available in New Zealand. Preferably choose responsibly-sourced products such as Trade Aid or other fair trade brands. For something different, I also tested the recipe using NZ-grown quinoa, grown near Taihape, by Kiwi Quinoa. I have included directions for short grain white rice or quinoa, or use a combination of the two.

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