When I go to Thailand I am always envious of their lovely, silky smooth, rich and delicious coconut milk.
In the early morning, in every market, coconuts are being processed in giant shredding machines and industrial presses, making coconut milk and cream that is ideal for cooking.
In the UK however it’s a different story, even the coconuts we get are inferior, and so it is quite difficult to get the consistency and taste I that I want. When I am back in Blighty it is an ingredient that I am forced to reluctantly compromise on and I would like to show you how I make this.
I crack coconuts by hitting them hard with the blunt side of a cleaver then turning them – repeat this as many times as necessary and you will find that the coconuts will crack neatly down the middle.
Allow the thin liquid to run away down the sink (you don’t need it) or catch it in a bowl, sieve it and drink it or use it to steam mussels.
Remove all the coconut with an oyster shucker and put it into a strong blender. Cover with hot but not boiling water and blend until smooth.
Put a muslin cloth in a strainer over a glass jug and pour the blended coconut milk in small batches then squeeze out the juice and discard the pulp.
Finally you will have coconut milk and cream in one. If you leave this to settle for about fifteen minutes then the coconut milk will float to the top. You can now skim the cream off and you are ready to make the perfect curry.
This is the best technique I have found but it is seldom ideal as the coconut cream is not thick enough to use for everything. It is for this reason that throughout my book, where it aids the dis to have very thick coconut cream, I have suggested that you use canned.
I wouldn’t however use canned coconut milk to make a curry as this just makes the final dish too cloying.
Another tip that may help you, which sometimes I use in desperation, is to mix powdered coconut milk with real coconut milk to boost the flavour without it becoming too gloopy or artificial.
To give you an idea of how many coconuts to buy to try this you will need a kilo of coconut meat to make 750ml of combined coconut milk and cream which is about three cups.
Make sure that the coconuts are heavy with liquid when you buy them by shaking them.
Making real coconut milk may sound like hard work but you can do it beforehand and store it in the fridge and the difference it make to the end result is phenomenal!
I hope this blog interested you – It is an excerpt from my book Mae’s Ancient Thai Food where I feature many more cooking tips – It is available as a hardback book or as a kindle download on Amazon.