|Cans of coconut milk - at least this brand lists "coconut extract" rather than "coconut milk" as one of its ingredients.|
I didn't get off to a good start. I threw my coconut into a dark cupboard and forgot about it for two weeks. By the time I took it out again, I could not hear any liquid from within. I guess it must have been old to begin with, because you should it able to store a fresh coconut for up to four months at room temperature. After an initial attempt to saw it open with a sharp knife, I did some research on the internet, and succeeded in cracking it in half with the back of a cleaver, as demonstrated on YouTube. I did not have high expectations, but I have to admit I was still disappointed to see the cracked flesh, dark spots and the beginnings of mould growth.
|Insides of a coconut that has been around for too long.|
|Coconut water from two coconuts.|
A friend from the Philippines told me of a device her family used at home, called kudkuran ng niyog ("coconut scraper") or kabayo ("horse"), which basically involved a round grater attached to a stool, on which you could sit while you shredded the snowy innards. [Added 26 September 2015: I discovered you can buy one of these in Auckland too, in New Gum Sarn!] Whoever invented that is a genius, because they basically bypassed the slow and painful step that resulted in me cutting myself. I was also constantly washing my coconut pieces down to remove the bits of brown skin—this not only took up time, but probably meant I ended up with less coconut extract than I could have expected.
|Coconut pieces are not the easiest to deal with.|
|Grating the coconut pieces into shreds.|
|Coconut pulp in a sieve lined with muslin.|
|Thick coconut milk from the first pressing (left) and thin coconut milk from the second pressing (right).|
|Stirring the surface revealed the cream layer was not actually that thick.|
Cooking with CoconutLaksa was probably the first thing that came to mind, when it came to using up my coconut milk. I remembered it was quite a lot of work to make though, and I wanted to try some new recipes too, so I went with some other suggestions.
Recipes Using Thick Coconut Milk
With my homemade thick coconut milk, I made a really easy coconut ice cream. It's vegan, so it is technically not an ice cream, but it tastes amazing, and you only need three ingredients—coconut milk, sugar (I reduced the amount used after reading other people's comments) and vanilla essence! You do not even need an ice cream maker. I did not add any thickeners to my coconut milk, and this produced something in between an ice cream and a sorbet, smooth and quick to melt. You can scoop it straight from the freezer, as an extra bonus! This was not only the easiest, but also the tastiest dish, out of all the coconut recipes I ended up making.
|Easy, refreshing and delicious homemade coconut ice cream.|
|Thai chicken curry pie.|
Recipes Using Thin Coconut Milk
With the thin coconut milk, the first thing I cooked was coconut pancakes. As the batter was so runny though, I ended up adding a lot more flour than instructed, and still my creations were not as puffy as those pictured in the original blog. These were nice, certainly much better than the gluten-free coconut flour ones I had attempted on another occasion. Still, I can't say I preferred these over plain pancakes, mainly because soft pancakes appeal more to me than ones with the fibrous coconut shreds inside.
|Coconut pancakes with clotted cream and maple syrup.|
I also made the iconic Malaysian dish of nasi lemak. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain pandan leaves (the shop said there would be another shipment next month), but that was just as well, because I brought the coconut milk rice to the boil over too high a heat, so that the bottom burnt and the top was too wet. Although I did not make the best rendition of the central component, it went well with the usual condiments like fried shallots and peanuts, hard boiled egg and cucumber slices, and sambal.
Recipes Using Leftover Coconut Pulp
I was left with 10 cups of pulp after making the coconut milk. Using these tough granules up, now that they have been drained of flavour, was always going to be difficult. My coconut pancakes seemed to prove that they could only detract from an otherwise good recipe, but I did not want to simply throw the leftover coconut shreds out.
Although the recipe for kale chips with toasted coconut calls for large coconut flakes, I thought the my coconut pulp would work just as well, because it would go crisp that much quicker, and absorb the dressing more readily too. This recipe turned out pretty well, though through my neglect, the leaves were unevenly dried. For the most part they were tasty, but I also had some browned leaves with a somewhat burnt flavour, while other ones were still damp and limp.
|Kale chips with toasted coconut.|
|Choc banana smoothie.|
I needed no further encouragement to discard the rest of the coconut pulp, but I am glad that I discovered many new and delicious uses for coconut milk and the resulting roughage up to this point. I also have a greater appreciation for coconut milk creation, and how much a product can vary from brand to brand. It's been quite a journey, but well worth the effort at least once. I can certainly picture myself making more fresh coconut milk once I purchase a proper food processor!
Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event aimed at inspiring us to try new things. This month it is hosted by Stacey from The Veggie Mama.