Using Herbs and Spices


Coconut Milk

Cooking with coconut milk

It is the milky liquid extracted from the grated flesh of mature fresh coconuts or reconstituted from desiccated coconut (dried shredded coconut) and not the clear liquid inside a coconut. Coconut milk is  an important ingredient in the cookery of nearly all Asian countries. It is used in soups, curries, savory meat or fish mixtures and all kinds of desserts. It has an unmistakable flavor and richness and should be used in recipes that call for it. This should present not difficulty, for even in countries where fresh coconuts are not available, it is simple to make.

 

Before cooking, it is strongly recommended that you make all the coconut milk required so that you're not stopped in your  tracks in the middle of a recipe. Coconut milk is extracted in two stages. The first yield being the 'thick milk', the second ' thin milk'. Use a mixture of first and second extracts when a recipe calls for coconut milk unless thick milk or thin milk is specified. Sometimes they are added at different stages of the recipe. In some recipes, you use 'coconut cream'. This is the rich layer that rises to the top of the thick milk (or first extract) after it has been left to stand for a while.

 

Using desiccated coconut : Many cooks use desiccated coconut for making milk. It is much easier and quicker to prepare than grating  fresh coconut, and n curries you cannot tell the difference. Put 2 cups desiccated coconut in a large bowl and pour over 2 1/2 cups hot water. Allow to cool to lukewarm, then knead firmly with the hand for a few minutes and strain through a fine strainer or a piece of muslin, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. This should produce approximately 1 1/2 cups thick coconut milk. Repeat the process using the same coconut and 2 1/2 cups more hot water. This extract will yield approximately 2 cups of thin coconut milk.

 

Using a blender : With an electric blender you save time and a lot of hard work. Put 2 cups desiccated coconut and 2 1/2 cups of hot water in blender container, cover and blend for about 30 seconds. Strain through a fine sieve or piece of muslin, squeezing out all the moisture. Repeat the process using the same coconut and 2 1/2 cups more of hot water.

Sometimes a richer milk is required.  For this, hot milk replaces the water and only the first extract is used. However, a second extract will yield a flavorful and reasonably  rich grade of coconut milk that can be used in soups, curries or other dishes.

 

Using fresh coconut :  In Asian countries, fresh coconut is used and a coconut grater is standard equipment in every household. Grating fresh coconut is easy if you have the right implement for the job. There are various types of coconut graters; the most successful one and the easiest to use, screws on to the edge of a table, like a mincing machine. It has a number of curved, serrated blades that meet at a central point like a citrus juice extractor. By turning the handle with one hand and holding a half coconut in the other position with the other, it is possible to grate all the white flesh with no danger of slipping knives or skinned knuckles.

However, if you are able to get fresh coconuts and do not have this sort of implement, use the electric blender both to pulverize the coconut and to extract the milk First. crack the nut  in two by hitting it with the back of a heavy kitchen chopper on the middle of the nut. Once a crack has appeared, insert the  thin edge of the blade and praise it open. Save the sweet clear liquid inside for drinking. Put the two halves of the nut into a low oven and in 15 or 20 minutes, the flesh  will start to  come away from the shell. Lift  it out with the point of a knife and peel away the thin dark brown skin that clings to the while portion. Cut into chunks, put into container of electric blender with 2 cups mild or water and blend at high speed until coconut is completely pulverized. Strain out liquid, repeat using more water and the same coconut.

To extract fresh coconut  milk by hand, grate the pieces of white meat finely and to each cup of grated coconut add a cup of hot water, knead thoroughly and strain out the liquid. Repeat process a second and even a third time, adding hot water.


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