Coconuts: A cook’s guide

Coconuts

You may not always be able to find coconuts in your local supermarket but you can always find them in Indian and other Asian grocers.

Picking your coconut

A coconut should be hard, with no soft spots. Ensure that there isn’t any mould on the outside where the eyes are. It should be brown all over, without any grey overtone; just like us, coconuts go grey with age! It should feel relatively heavy for its size and when you shake it, there should be plenty of liquid inside so you hear a sloshing sound. Don’t forget to check the fruit for any signs of cracks or fractures, which would allow moisture to ooze out.

coconut with three eyes

Cracking your nuts

One of the trickiest aspects of cooking with coconuts is cracking them open! It’s a fairly messy procedure, so I recommend either doing it over the sink, or, as I prefer, outside. Better still, get someone else to do it for you – I always send my husband, Ben, into the garden with ours! We use a cleaver and if you’re not worried about saving the coconut water, simply hold your coconut in one hand and give it a swift and firm whack along one of the visible joins with the back flat edge of the cleaver. It may take a couple of goes, but eventually you’ll hear and see a crack. If you don’t have a cleaver, try wrapping your coconut in a towel and striking with a hammer. You may not get as clean a break with this method.

Coconut with cleaver

Grating Coconut

I use a specific coconut grater to grate my coconuts – a manually rotating blade, which is inserted into a coconut half and scrapes the flesh out. Don’t worry if you don’t have one of these though – you can also smash the coconut up into smaller pieces and grate using a hand held grater, or alternatively, scoop out the meat and use one of those rotary cheese graters.

Coconut half on red cloth

Now you know the basics, why not try out some of my coconut recipes?

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