Why make it when you can buy it? Good question. This time I want you to forgive us for answering your question with another. Why buy it when you can make it? In cookery, oftentimes we trade convenience for taste and savings. We spend more so that we can bypass a few steps and we trade-off taste in the process. But taste isn’t the only thing we trade-off when we buy processed foods. How about health? Processed food products have preservatives and additives to keep them longer or make them easier to handle. Coconut powder has maltodextrin, a sugar substance added to make it powdery. That is why it is sweet to taste. Canned coconut milk is also preserved for long life. To be honest, if I had to grate a coconut myself, or even shuck it from the husk, I wouldn’t be so happy about that, but it would still be very much worth the hassle because as cliché as this sounds, “there ain’t nothing like the real thing!”
Start with the grated coconut (you can buy the freshly grated coconuts in certain stores or the markets, especially in the Middle East and South East Asia). You should able to get in specialty stores elsewhere. Please let us know where you find yours. We get ours at Lulu or Karama Market.
Ingredients: 2 cups coconut, 1 cup boiling hot water. To increase quantities, go by the formula of 2 parts coconuts to 1 part water
Method: Pour the boiling water on the coconut, use a potato masher to smash it around and to make certain that you smash the coconut down evenly in the water. If you have a hand blender, blender or food processor, give it a quick go with the machine to get even more of the milk out of the coconuts through greater agitation.
Allow to cool. With clean hands, squeeze and squirt around in the mixture with the excitement of a kindergartener. This will help to milk out the cream out of the coconut. Do for about 3-5 mins or until you graduate from kindergarten wet play.
Pour in a container through a strainer and let it drain. You really should use a higher bowl than I did but either way, go back in and hand squeeze a fist full at a time through the strainer until all the liquid is extracted.
So now you are left with the coconuts looking like they did when you started… and also, a rich, thick coconut milk that no canned or powdered stuff can ever come close to! Now add this to your next Chef and Steward meal, a vegan Jamaican Ital Red Peas Stew!
STEWARD’S NOTE: You could consider doing two batches at a time and freezing half for those times when you don’t have it fresh or are in a hurry and cannot be bothered. You can just defrost the frozen milk in the fridge or melt on the stove and add to your dishes. It will separate if refrigerated or frozen so don’t worry about it. It will come back together once thawed or heated.