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Coconut (Cocos nucifera) belongs to the Palm family Arecaceae and is found growing around the world in lowland, tropical and subtropical habitats. Classed as a fruit, it is actually a one-seeded drupe. Coconut fruits are large and nearly round. The husk is hard, medium brown, and has a rough, hairy surface. Three round depressions are found on one end of the fruit. The fruit is used for its husk, white flesh, and liquid in the fruit called "milk." The fruit harvested from the coconut tree, which lives for 70 years, producing thousands of coconuts. The white flesh of the fruit is the coconut meat. The center contains a watery liquid coconut juice which is often sipped straight from the coconut. Coconut milk is made by simmering equal parts water and shredded coconut meat, then squeezing and straining the thick liquid remaining. Coconut cream is the same as coconut milk with a richer proportion of coconut to water (4 to 1)
Coconut can be peeled or unpeeled, as desired. Using a sharp knife cut it into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half and chop it by cutting them in small pieces approximately ¼ inch in diameter, although the chopped food doesn't need to be exactly the same size. If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "coarsely chopped," make the pieces slightly larger.
For any South Indian dishes, coconut paste is a must. It adds flavour, thickness and taste to the food cooked. The way you grind it and the amount of water added or if you have touched, everything matters. There are two ways you can go about doing this, either by chopping the coconut meat to small pieces or by grating and then making a paste of it. Grating the coconut using the traditional Indian instruments is quite daunting. For making the paste, take enough quantity and grind to a smooth paste. You should not add water; if required; just add a teaspoon for it to run. Other ingredients like ginger, garlic, green chilly etc can also be added while grinding. Coconut Paste is used in many dishes in Malaysia as an additional flavour, especially as a base of Indian Curry. It can make your dishes more delicious and appetizing. Coconut Paste might be a little bit hard in condition; it is natural as the oil is separated from the paste. It suggests that mix well before using it.
Grated and roasted coconut
Coconut can be grated into thin or thick shreds using a grater. One can also use coconut grater which is especially designed to grate coconut directly from its shell. After grating, place them in a non-stick pan and dry roast on a medium flame till they turn little dry and pink in colour. Cool and store in an air-tight container or use as required.
Coconut can be grated thinly or thickly using a grater as required by the recipe. Thickly grated can be used to make sauce or just simply added to vegetables during sauté. Thinly grated c oconut can be added to beverage or in salad.Toasted grated coconut
Grated coconut can be toasted either in oven or on gas. To toast it in oven - Preheat oven to 350. Arrange shredded/flaked coconut on a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until light golden brown. Stir and check frequently to prevent burning. Remove from oven and allow to cool before using. And the other way to toast it is by - keeping a non stick pan on a very slow fire. Add in the grated coconut and sauté it till it turns into deep golden brown. Keep on stirring because you want the entire portion to be even brown color. After the aroma starts to permeate the whole kitchen, stop and remove the coconut and cool the mixture. Use as desired.
Cut the coconut in half. Slice using a sharp knife by cutting vertically across the cutting board. Wedge them thinly or thickly as the recipe requirement, can used as a garnish or used in sambhar or dal preparations. It can also be deep fried and added to Chivda.
How to select
Choose coconuts that feel heavy for their size, having no cracks and avoid those whose circular indented eyes are damp, moist or moldy. Shake the coconut. It should slosh with liquid and sound full.
· Coconut Spread is a very innovative spread and versatile. It is made by grinding the dried flesh of mature coconuts. Because the meat of the coconut is so high in oils, the result is a delicious thick paste, very similar to sesame tahini and it is shelf stable. This spread contains over 60% medium chain fatty acids known for their antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitical and energy giving properties.
· One medium coconut will yield 3 to 4 cups of grated meat. To extract the juice of the coconut (not to be confused with coconut milk), pierce two of the three indentations, or eyes, at one end with an icepick. An average mature coconut yields about 240ml. of coconut cream and 360ml of coconut milk.
· Sliced or chopped coconut can be added to preparations like wadas, sambhar etc to enhance its taste.
· Grated coconut forms the basis of South Indian cooking to make gravies, curries etc.
· Coconut is shredded or flaked for use in baked goods or candies.
· Coconut milk, cream, water etc are use in recipes as flavor enhancers.
· Coconut can be used to make chutneys, podis, sweets like pongal, barfi etc.
How to store
Fresh unopened coconuts can be stored at room temperature for up to four months, depending on its original freshness when purchased.
· Coconut is a tropical fruit that is rich in protein.
· The meat of the coconut is very good in destroying intestinal parasites that we get from eating infected food.
· The coconut water/juice is a nutritious refreshing drink especially for those people with kidney and urinary bladder problems. Coconut juice is highly alkaline.
· Coconut water is rich in potassium too.
· Coconut milk from the mature coconut is used to make Virgin Coconut Oil, VCO can help prevent and treat minor ailments.
· Coconut meat contains lots of fat, saturated hence advisable to be had in moderate quantities. However some researches claim it to be good fat that gets utilized faster in the body and does not convert into bad cholesterol.