All About Coconut

Preparing Grated Fresh Coconut

Pierce two holes in the "eyes"—the shiny black marks on the coconut.
Drain the water from the coconut.
Break the coconut with a sharp blow from a hammer into two or three pieces.
Place a small amount of water into each of the pieces so that the meat will come away from the shell easily.
Bake pieces in the oven at 325° for five minutes.
Pare the rind of coconut with swivel-type vegetable peeler.
Grate by hand or cut in small chunks and chop in an electric blender.

Toasted Coconut

Spread the shredded coconut evenly over a cookie sheet and bake at 325° for about ten minutes. In Africa, coconut is only toasted when used as an accompaniment to curry.

How to Prepare Coconut Liquids

Our cookbook refers to three kinds of coconut liquids:

Prepared Coconut Commercially Available

MOIST COCONUT is available grated, flaked, or shredded in packages or cans. DRY COCONUT is usually packaged. In using dry coconut for coco- nut milk and cream, use 13 cup extra for every cup called for. POWDERED COCONUT is available in gourmet shops and better food markets. This also may be used in making Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream as indicated on package.

How to Prepare Seasoned Butters

Purified Butter Ethiopian Style

In Ethiopia, every housewife keeps seasoned butter, called ghee, in her refrigerator or in a cool place ready for use. The Ethiopians believe that the addition of spices and herbs actually purifies the butter. This is ho~. it is made.

Saute: 1/4 cup SCALLIONS, finely chopped
2 cloves GARLIC, mashed
1 small piece GINGER, chopped, in
1 Ib. BUTTER on a low fire until butter starts to boil.
Simmer gently for about 5 minutes but do not permit butter to brown.
Strain through a double cheesecloth.
Store in a crock in the refrigerator and spoon over vegetables, etc.

Seasoned Butter American Style

Here is a secret method used in many American restaurants. The butter is kept in the refrigerator at all times ready for use in seasoning soups, sauces, vegetables and meats, fish and poultry.
Soften: 1 Ib. BUTTER and
Blend in: 2 Tbs. SALT
1 tsp. PAPRIKA
1/8 tsp. OREGANO or THYME.
Place the softened butter in a crock and spoon it out as you use it. There is generally no further need to season.

All About Greens

There are those who believe that greens should always be torn, but in the restaurant industry there is no time for tearing and I have found that I prefer the cut greens even when time is no problem. The fibers are not so delicate that proper handling and cutting with a knife will injure them and they look more attractive. They should be cut as close to the time of use as possible.

Preparing Greens

For greens with loose leaves such as BOSTON, SIMPSON LETTUCE, ROMAINE, CHICORY and ESCAROLE use the following procedure:
Remove wilted greens and wash the outside in lukewarm water.
Cut across the head one inch from the core and discard the core.
Fill sink partly full of lukewarm water and toss a handful of coarse salt (kosher) into the water.
Loosen the leaves, wash thoroughly, and rinse.
Set desired leaves for salad liners aside on a turkish towel to dry.
For tight leaf lettuce such as ICEBERG:
Remove wilted greens and wash outside in lukewarm water.
Set aside good outside leaves for tossed greens.
Cut out core with the point of a paring knife.
Cut the head down from the core into two equal halves.
Hold the halves, one in each hand cut side up, and allow lukewarm water from the faucet to run through the leaves.
Turn upside down and drain on a dry turkish towel.
Pat the leaves dry.

The flat outer leaves of a lettuce head are good for lining salad bowls and for sandwiches. The inner leaves or core, may be cut into thin julienne strips and used like cole slaw. Grate the core into your tossed salad.

Greens for Tossing

Take as many leaves in left hand as you can, lay them across board.
Slice across with stainless steel French knife in 1-inch strips. (If the strips are too long cut them in desired lengths.)
Pat the leaves dry with a towel.
Lift the leaves about 12 inches high and drop them loosely into a bowl or container. This aerates the greens.

Making a Lettuce Cup

Turn lettuce cut side up after the head was cut in halves.
Tap it lightly with the side of your fist to loosen the leaves, taking care not to break them. Outside leaves will come out as cups.
Form a cup with two or three leaves with the cut side out so that the edges of the salads are uniform and clean looking. The larger outer leaves are for entree salads. The smaller cups may be used for side dishes or small side salads.

How to Cut Onions

On our visit to Africa were very fortunate in having the opportunity to actually help in preparing meals with many African women. On these occasions my contribution was usually a demonstration of short-cut techniques. The ladies were delighted and particularly impressed with how we handle onions. It was their idea that I describe the technique in this book.

This method was taught to me by an old-time chef who once said, "I can run any kitchen with four tools: a French knife, a paring knife, a mixing spoon and a wire whisk." (I would add the swivel type vegetable peeler and perhaps a few more, but the important point is to start with the right tools.) Beginning with the indispensable French knife, his technique is as follows.

Cut the onions in half.
Trim the skin and cut away the core.
Place it cut side down on a wooden board.
Make three diagonal gashes on each side across the onion.
Hold onion on the board cut side down with thumb and fingers around the onion.
Slice down as thinly or thickly as desired, leaving slices in place.
Swing the onion around and slice down again.
Spread onions over the board.
Hold point of the French knife in left hand and handle of knife in the right hand.
Chop the onions by holding the point of the knife on the board and bringing the blade and handle up and down without moving the point.

Today onions may be purchased as onion powder, onion salt, onion flakes, frozen in packages, and even freeze-dried. All are good. But somehow it's hard to find a substitute for good old onions that make you weep.

Accompaniments for Curry

Curries are almost as popular throughout Africa as they are in India. The curry of Africa, however, is not like the Madras blend. It is bright orange in color and has a most distinctive flavor. Accompaniments are as important in the service of curries in Africa as elsewhere. The following are suggested for an African Curry. Chutney Mango Chutney is usually purchased ready made in Africa. But the housewives in "Curry Territory" make wonderful chutney. See Pineapple Chutney, page 192. They also make plum chutney, lime pickle, and green tomato and ripe tomato chutneys. Fruits Chopped bananas sprinkled with lime juice.
Chopped bananas, melon, mango, or papaya.
Lime wedges. Vegetables Skinned and chopped tomatoes in equal parts with black raisins.
Chopped scallions mixed with hard-boiled eggs.
Batter-fried onion rings.
Sauteed onions.
Chopped onions with green peppers. Nuts Coconut, grated, shredded, toasted.
Peanuts, whole or chopped.
Cashew nuts.

Six accompaniments are adequate for a curry dish. Prepare about 1/2 cup of each and place them in small bowls or in a six sectioned relish dish.

African Artifacts

How to Make African Salad Bowls

Small salads were served in coconut bowls throughout West Africa. They are simply made as follows:

Cut the coconut across in two equal halves with an electric meat saw or prevail upon your butcher to do this for you. (If you wish you may remove the liquid first and use the unscarred half only.)
Place in oven at 325 F until meat comes cleanly away from shell.
Sandpaper the outside of the bowl until glossy smooth.

How to Make an African Coconut Ladle

An African coconut ladle is a surprisingly handy item to have around the house and is especially appropriate to use when you serve your African dinner.
Pierce two holes in the "eyes" or black dots at the peak of the coconut, with an ice pick or sharp skewer.
Drain the water.
Cut the coconut in two making the peak end the smaller half. This half is discarded. (Have your butcher cut the coconut on his electric meat saw.)
Place the coconut in the oven at 325° until the meat comes cleanly away from the shell.
Bore a "tight" I/2-inch hole on the side of the half without the shiny dots— about 3/4 inch from the edge with an electric bit.
Force a 12-inch long dowel stick 1/2-inch thick through the hole in the coconut so that it comes through 1/2-inch on the inside of the ladle. (Purchase the dowel stick at the carpentry shop.)
Sandpaper the outside of your new ladle until it is glossy smooth.

Food Sources

The following is a list of sources where spices and other ingredients in African dishes may be purchased:

House of Yemen
370 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10016

K. Kalustyan Orient Export Trading Corp.
123 Lexington Avenue
New York, New York 10016

Bloomingdale's Delicacy Shop
Lexington Avenue at 59th Street
New York, New York 10021

Atlas Importing Company
1109 Second Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Conte di Savoia
555 W. Roosevelt Road
Chicago, Illinois

Bezjian's Grocery
4725 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90029

Haig's Delicacies
441 Clement Street
San Francisco, California

Published by The World Publishing Company
2231 West 110th Street. Cleveland, Ohio 44102
Published simultaneously in Canada by
Nelson. Foster & Scott Ltd.
Return to the African Studies Main Menu