9 avatars of a coconut

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Known as the kalpa vriksha – a tree which gives everything that is necessary for living. All parts of this tree are useful – literally nothing is wasted. Right from the coir to the leaves and of course the fruit – all can be used in more ways than one. Read on to find out the several ways in which we use coconuts in the kitchen.

Fresh Coconut – Packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals, fresh coconut flesh is a wonder ingredient indeed. It is the part from which most other coconut extracts are derived. The flesh can be grated out of its shell of cut out with a knife. South Indian cuisine is a big fan of this fruit and you can find a good dose or at least a sprinkling of it in most recipes from peninsular India. It is hard to imagine eating a dosa without its delicious coconut chutney accompaniment, isn’t it? A prawn sukke is our winning bet for seafood lovers who want to fall in love with coconut too!

Coconut Water – It has the same PH level as blood plasma and having a glass of coconut water a day is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your body! Use water from a tender coconut instead of a fizzy soda for mocktails or even make a coconut water green tea to get the best of both these healthy ingredients. Refreshing and energizing, it provides you with all necessary electrolytes and minerals in their most natural form. Coconut water is known as ‘Nature’s Gatorade’ for a reason – you can go for it especially after a workout!

Coconut Milk – It is light and creamy, nutty and dense at the same time. The flavour is just perfect – not too overpowering but hard to miss. Scraped coconut flesh is mixed with water and passed through a muslin cloth to give you thick coconut milk – known as the first extract. Besides using it to thicken or mellow down a spicy curry, you can use coconut milk in delicious desserts and sauces too. A great ingredient for lactose intolerant people and a great substitute for dairy in baking, coconut milk extract is also beneficial for healthy hair and skin.  A classic Thai Curry with Jasmine Rice takes the word comfort food to another level.

Coconut Oil – You can instantly recognize a South Indian dish with the strong aroma of coconut oil that it oozes. Coconut oil can be used in tempering. With curry leaves and mustard seeds, it makes a dish really aromatic and inviting. For strong healthy hair and glowing younger-looking skin – a good coconut oil massage is all you need! Moreover, rubbing a little coconut oil on your gums and teeth helps keep them strong! For gastronomic nirvana – shallow-fry a piece of marinated mackerel in it and you will never use any other oil again!

Desiccated Coconut – This is nothing but dried ground coconut flesh. Grainy and dry, desiccated coconut is high in oil content and has a sweetish aftertaste just like the nut. Use this snow-white powdery coconut extract to add a touch of visual beauty and great taste to desserts. Try making these delicious choco coconut laddoos which are a favourite with kids and adults alike!

Dried Coconut or Khopra – Dried coconut and desiccated coconut are different, though they are often used interchangeably in recipes. Dried coconut is what we call khopra in India and is made by drying the whole coconut shell and then grating the dried oily flesh out of it. A super ingredient to make laddoos, burfis and other Indian mithais with, using khopra in the recipe increases their shelf life. Khopra paak is what we urge you to make so you can experience the deliciousness that we are talking about.

Coconut Flour / Coconut Meal – Yes there is a thing such as a coconut meal or coconut flour. The pulpy mix that is left after you have extracted coconut milk out of the flesh is air-dried or put in the oven at a very low temperature till all the moisture has evaporated. This is then ground to give you fine coconut flour which is gluten-free, high in fibre and has that fabulous nutty coconut taste! Make pancakes, cookies, flatbread and cakes out of this flour!

Coconut Cream – Coconut cream is nothing but a thicker version of coconut milk. It is light and has a creamy coconut flavour – like that of tender coconut flesh. You can use it as a substitute for fresh cream in most recipes. This makes fabulous ingredients for those who are lactose intolerant and vegan but love their cakes and cookies. Use it to make a refreshing tropical Virgin Pinacolada.

Coconut Essence – This like any other essence has a strong flavour. A couple of drops of these will give a delicious coconutty flavour to cookies, cakes and mithais.

There probably are zillion other uses and products you could get out of a coconut that we may not have discovered yet! As of now try your hand at these great recipes that celebrate coconuts in all its glory!

Recommended recipes-

Quick Kopra Pak,  Coconut Burfi,  Coconut Gulaab ki Kheer,  Coconut Green Tea,  Coconut Lassi,  Coconut Laddoo Lollypops,  Choco-Coconut Laddoos,  Coconut aur Kaju ka Sheera,  Coconut Roti,  Coconut Brownie with Ice cream


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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.