Sunday, March 8, 2009

Exotic Foods: Coconut, Coconut Milk, and Coconut Cream

Since I've been in Hungary I've really tried to purchase foods in season and locally. I stopped buying any tomatoes once the cheap, end-of-season ones were gone, but have continued buying, on occasion peppers, because I'm pretty sure they are grown in greenhouses around Szeged. On February 14th in Kalocsa I was shopping at the farmer's market and spotted something that does not belong to any country even remotely close to Europe: a coconut. I thought long and hard about buying one, I think they are in season, but they don't belong to the country's cuisine, but I was wanting to experiment with one, so in the end I gave in and bought one. I didn't do anything with it until March 5th, 19 days later.

I kept checking up on the coconut, making sure that it was still sealed and OK. While waiting for my landlady to arrive to collect rent I thought about the neglected coconut and decided it was time to do something with it. I had no tools to work on it, but used my mini Leatherman to open up the eye holes and drain the coconut water, there was very little, which makes sense for how long it had been sitting in the fridge. I then cracked it open, almost perfectly in half by hitting it on my porch stairs.

The first thing I noticed was how thick the meat was. This goes along with how little water I got from the coconut: the water builds up into the meat, the more water, the less meat. Harvesting the meat and peeling off the skin I was left staring at a plate full of coconut chunks. After eating a couple pieces I was still left with a decision. I could have grated and toasted the coconut, or turned it into milk and cream. Either way it needed to be grated, so I further contemplated my choices while doing so.

I finally decided to make milk citing the fact that doing anything in a Hungarian oven is more tricky than it should be so I put all of the grated coconut into my beaker and added boiling water to steep it.

Then using the immersion blender I pureed it and let it steep for a moment longer.

Having finished that I simply strained the meat from the liquid and put the liquid back into the beaker, putting that into the refrigerator to separate the cream from the milk.

I used the coconut milk when making chai, a delicious variation of it anyway. Sorry I didn't get a picture of that.

I did add the coconut cream to whipping cream and made whipped cream to add to desserts. It was delicious!

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