Monday, May 18, 2009

Coconut Chutney: Round One

The tools in the photo will not help you crack the coconut.

This weekend, I rode my bike a few times, met a friend for breakfast, and disemboweled a coconut. I'd bought said coconut a few weeks earlier with the intention of making coconut chutney, which is one of my favorite food substances.

I had taken my scratchy-covered brown victim to the garage to drive a nail into two of its eyes; this was how I remembered opening coconuts as a kid. At the beginning of the adventure, Mowgli had said we didn't have the proper tool (a handheld scythe) but I was undeterred.

The nail-driving and subsequent milking went fine, and we both enjoyed the watery milk, which Mowgli says is good to drink in summertime. He also said that if we poured it in the houseplant soil, a coconut tree would grow; this was a shortlived and highly amusing attempt to start a game of "gullible wife."

Back out in the garage, I spent a while whacking the nut with a hammer and marveling at the lively, happy sound it made as it rebounded from each assault, utterly unharmed. Thinking I'd have better results if I put a chink in the convex armor, I found a handsaw and worked up a sweat making an insignificant valley.

Then Mowgli came out and laughed at my feeble attempts. He put on a gardening glove, took the coconut over to the landscaping bricks pictured above, and had it open after two or three thwacks against the edge.

Back inside, I pried frustratingly small chunks of flesh out with a knife until the shell was bare, and was thrilled when my helpful husband said to use a potato peeler to remove the thin inner husk. Half an hour later, I was ready to make the chutney.

The recipe I used is from a cookbook written by Mrs. S. Mallika Badrinath, who's written a series. We have about nine of them; they have titles like "100 Vegetarian Gravies," "100 Snacks Special," and "100 Rice Delights." The chutneys are in "100 Tiffin Varieties."

Once I had Mowgli identify the Bengal gram (the mysteries of the Indian pantry shelf are many) and researched the size of a gooseberry so that I could add a blob of gooseberry-sized tamarind paste, I was ready to go. I ground the coconut in the food processor, added a green chile, the tamarind, the Bengal gram, some salt, and whizzed away, thinking the racket the peas were making were par for the course.

Then Mowgli came by to say, "The gram is not roasted." My shoulders fell forward in bleak defeat. The recipe calls for roasted Bengal gram, and in my excitement to move out of the preparation stage, I had forgotten about the roasting.

I am sorry to say that I scraped all that lovely fresh coconut-tamarind-chile-gram goop into the trash; I just couldn't figure out how to salvage it. And since I had used my last green chile, I couldn't start over, even though I had enough of everything else for a second attempt.

And that, my friends, is why I called this post "Coconut Chutney: Round One."

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