Today I am going back the memory lane. Same time last year I was spending a year in the Dominican Republic under the Coconut palm trees.
I met wonderful people who inspired me a lot. The tropical scenery was breathtaking. I could not put my camera down. Another thing I could not put down was coconuts. I love coconut milk, cream, flesh, bowls made with the rind, even body wash with a hint of coconut smell.
|Pictures I took during my stay on the island. Notice the beautiful colors and hues.|
During my stay on the Island I hired a very sweet lady called Louisa to help me with the house shores. She also helped me practise my Spanish and taught me some of the local dishes. One day she invited us to her house and cooked amazing dishes using coconuts. She prepared Chicken with coconut sauce and green peppers, Gandule beans (which I learned later is pigeon peas) with coconut and pumpkin and last but not least the famous Caribbean coconut rice. I wanted to learn how to make this super tasty rice and so I asked Louisa to teach me.
|Gandule or Pigeon Peas (As a plant as well as bought fresh in the markets)|
Next week we prepared the famous Caribbean rice together and Louisa taught me the island way of cooking. Louisa first showed me how she cracks open a coconut with a big knife (machete). She chose a mature coconut (like the ones you find in the grocery stores (with hard brown shells). I was impressed how she handled the knife in the air breaking pieces of the shell with every stroke in an amazing dexterity. When the brown shell was broken it was easy to remove the white flesh. She then broke the flesh into smaller pieces and put them in a mixer with some warm water. After mixing for about 5 minutes we had beautiful milky white coconut milk. Fresh and so so good. No need to buy cans when you can prepare it yourself. Right?
|Louisa making the coconut milk and straining it through a sieve.|
We had a feast that day with lots of Caribbean dishes and I was happy to share them with Louisa and her daughter Daniela.
|Louisa & Daniela sharing a caribbean gourmet meal with us in Las Terrenas/DR|
|Lola having a bite of shrimp and coconut rice|
1 brown shelled Coconut (0r 2 cans of good quality coconut milk)
¼ tsp raw sugar
Salt to taste
½ tbs coconut or canola oil
2 cups Long grain rice or jasmine rice
Remove the flesh from the shell of a mature coconut with a hammer. Be careful not to hurt yourself.
Cut the flesh in smaller pieces. Put the coconut flesh in the blender and add warm water. Mix till the coconut pieces become very fine and the water becomes a shade of white (see picture). Then in a fine sieve remove the coconut pieces and reserve the coconut milk. You can reuse the mashed coconut pieces and make more coconut milk by adding warm water to your mixer. I was able to make about 3 liters of coconut milk with just one coconut. You can drink the coconut milk with your shakes or with tea or use it in other dishes. Do not discard the coconut flesh. Use it in dessert recipes. It can be towelled dried and frozen till used.
Now let’s make some coconut rice. Wash you rice well and reserve. Put the coconut or canola oil in a pot and let it sizzle for 30 sec then add your coconut milk and the sugar. You can add some of the mashed coconut pieces for added coconut flavor. I love adding the flesh. Then Let the coconut milk reduce to the third. You will notice that the coconut milk will become golden brown and will caramelize a bit. This is when you add your rinsed rice. Mix well and add the salt and 2 cups of coconut milk. It should just about cover the rice. So 2 cups or rice for two cups of coconut milk. Let it cook on medium high heat uncovered till you can’t see the liquid anymore. So the rice will have absorbed half the quality. Then lower the fire and let it cook with lid on for about 15-20 minutes. At this point taste your rice. It should be chewy and just about done. Remove from the heat and let it rest another 5 minutes. Then with a large rice spoon or a large fork fluff the rice a bit and serve. Enjoy.
Coconut rice with shrimps and pineapple
· Shrimps (peeled and deveined; leave tail on for garnish)
· Salt and pepper
· 1 Pineapple
· 1 medium Spanish onion
· 2 green scallions (sliced in fine rounds) for garnish
· 1 large beef tomatoes (or any fleshy tomatoes) skinned, seeded and chopped)
· Mild or spicy peppers (such as Jalapeños) - Optional
· Cooled Coconut Rice (see above recipe)
Sauté the shrimps in a bit of oil till light pink and cooked. Season with salt & pepper and reserve.
Cut the top of the pineapple and reserve it for decoration. Cut the outside of the pineapple, removing all the hard part and the core that is inedible. Cut the flesh in bites size cubes and reserve.
Mince the onion and sauté till tender and slightly caramelized. Add the chopped pepper and cook for 1 minute. Then add the coconut rice and mix well. Remove from the stove and put the coconut rice mix in a large bowl. Let the rice cool a bit then add chopped scallions, the tomatoes, the pineapple cubes and the shrimp and fluff everything. Serve in a big plate garnished with the head of the pineapple. Enjoy!