Coconut tree in Seychelles
Today Chef Rufus Elizabeth of Seselwa restaurant at Constance Ephélia Resort explains how to make coconut milk the traditional way.
Coconuts are poetically called ‘suspended water’. They’re used in many different culinary preparations in the Seychelles – the most famous one is probably the kari koko, or curry with coconut milk.
1. To make fresh coconut milk, you need to use a dry coconut. First remove the husk by splitting it on a sharp rock. If you buy it in a supermarket, it will come without the husk.
Split the coconut husk on a sharp rock
2. Then, break open the nut. This can be a dangerous operation if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Seychellois do it with a machete… but please don’t try this at home!
Instead, I’d recommend using a pastry roller or a metal pipe. The trick is to place the nut in your hand the right way. It will easily break open if you hit it right in the middle, against the sense of the fibers.
3. Hold the nut tightly in the palm of your left hand, hide your fingers, and hit it with the pastry roll. If it doesn’t break the first time, try again.
4. Place a glass or bowl under to collect the coconut water.
5. Once the nut is open:
- Sieve the coconut water and use it to prepare a delicious drink. It’s perfect pure and ice cold. Seychellois have it for breakfast to give them strength for the day.
- You can also mix it with white rum and prepare a delicious punch.
6. Remove the pulp from the shell: one easy way is to use an oyster knife. Protect your fingers as the blade can easily rip against the inside of the shell.
Scrape the pulp out of the coconut
Try to keep at least one side of the coconut shell intact. Seychellois use it a measuring unit and call it the kafoul.
7. Rinse the pieces of pulp. You can choose to keep the brown skin around it or remove it with a knife. Grate the pulp. Seychellois use a traditional grater (a piece of sharp metal on a wooden plank). At home, a blender is probably your best bet.
8. Place the grated pulp in a bowl. Add a bit of fresh water and let it soak for 5 minutes.
9. Place the preparation in a clean cloth. Wrap the cloth around the pulp and press with your hands on top of a bowl. The coconut milk will be extracted slowly.
Sieve milk through the husk
To do this, Seychellois use a piece of natural coconut husk. They call it tamis coco.
10. Keep the coconut milk in the fridge until you need it. Keep the dry grated pulp to prepare pastries such as a delicious coconut tart, or a coconut jam.
11. If you want a thicker milk, or coconut cream, allow the milk to rest for 2 to 3 hours. The liquid will progressively split and the coconut cream will stay at the top. Use a ladle to gently collect it from the top.
It may be easier to open a can of coconut milk but what a pleasure to make your own!