How to make coconut cream – the authentic Fijian way
In Fiji they say you can find 101 uses for coconuts. You can make rope by binding the fruit’s fibrous husk, cups from its shell, and moisturising lotion from its flesh. Personally, it’s the uses of coconut in the kitchen which most interest me and there is no shortage of those, as the Fijian diet largely consists of coconut in some form – whether it be juice, cream or oil.
Earlier this year I was on holiday in Fiji and stayed at The Pearl South Pacific resort. One of the staff, Save (pronounced Sa-ba), taught me a little about what he knew of the nation’s staple. And, considering children are taught a whole subject on coconuts at school, he knew a good deal.
From the age of about seven, Fijian children from the mountains, coast and rural villages (anywhere except the cities, basically) are taught how to climb the coconut tree, how to husk, cut and scrape coconuts and use them for food or cooking purposes. Even to this day, boys head to the jungle with their machetes (tools they learned to wield safely from a young age) in search of coconuts to bring back to the women for use in the home.
Coconut use varies depending on its stage of ripeness. A green coconut must be picked from the tree, is hollow sounding to tap and has a smooth surface. It offers a deliciously sweet juice, which I heard a child say tastes a lot like lemonade if you drink it fast! It’s flesh too – a thick, jelly-like, interior layer – provides a satisfying finish to a wholesome snack. A brown coconut (commonly found in supermarkets across Australia) falls from the tree once ripe and has a rough, fibrous surface texture. It is used to make cream, or, depending on how much water you add, milk. A sprouted coconut (an overripe brown coconut) is best used to make coconut oil.
Fijian’s rarely use cow, goat or any other animal’s milk – coconut milk is where it’s at! They use coconut milk in sweet and savoury cooking, to soothe an upset stomach, and to control heat rash – a useful remedy for many Aussies in Fiji! When it comes to taste though, you cannot even begin to compare canned coconut cream and fresh coconut cream. Do your taste buds this small favour and try making your own coconut cream – at least once.
How to make coconut cream (Save’s way)
3 brown coconuts
- Cut the coconut in half and discard the juice (it is overripe and too mature-tasting for consumption compared to the green coconut).
- Scrape the flesh from the coconut, working from the outside in, into a medium-sized bowl.
- Taste the fresh shredded coconut as you go, but resist the temptation to eat it all!
- Add the water to the coconut flesh and stir to soak.
- Using your hands, collect a handful of coconut and wring tightly so the milk falls into the bowl. Discard the coconut onto a tray. Continue to squeeze the milk from the remaining coconut until all complete and you have a bowl of milk remaining. Check the consistency and add more water and stir if you would prefer it more milky than creamy.
- Strain into a jug.