Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Recipe #56: Coconut Rice (3 ways) and #57 Coconut Smoothie

Yesterday I explained how to make your own coconut water/milk/cream. The convenient alternative, of course, is to substitute a canned (unsweetened, of course) version. Here are a few recipes using that coconut milk and/or cream. If you keep reading to the end, you'll find a contemporary recipe using coconut milk and cream (aka cream of coconut) and some fresh things I have handy in the house (pineapple and banana and some vanilla bean).

Rice seems to be an increasingly popular choice in Sub-Saharan Africa. I've posted rice recipes before (e.g., jollof rice or ricewater or tatale made with rice flour), but today's easy recipe enriched by coconut milk/cream  is a standby when I do presentations. Here are 3 versions: a small quantity cooked in a microwave for my dinner, an intermediate version cooked in a rice cooker, and a special quantity version prepared in the oven.

Recipe #56: 3 versions of Coconut Rice

1 cup in the Microwave: It's really almost embarrassingly easy: simply substitute part coconut milk for the water when cooking the rice, and a little coconut cream if you want it even richer. Or, it's easiest to just stir the cream into the coconut  water and use that for part of the liquid in the recipe.

Here's how to cook a cup of white rice in the microwave (this is officially 4 servings):
I prefer basmati or jasmine or any other long-grain rice  (actually, Asian rices are largely replacing traditional rices in much of West Africa), and a tablespoon of the coconut cream  mixed with enough coconut milk to replace 1/2 cup of the water. As I said, you can just mix together the cream and milk and use 1/2 cup of this rich coconut milk with a cup to 1 1/2 cup  of water. I cook my rice without salt, but you can add a little if you wish. (NOTE: After living in Japan, I always rinse my rice at least twice before cooking it.) In my Nordic Ware microwave rice cooker, I need to cook the cup of  rice at 50% (medium)  for about 15-20 minutes, covered, with the vent holes in the lid open, then remove it from the microwave, close the vent holes, and let it sit for another 5 minutes or so to steam before fluffing it with a fork. You may have to play with your microwave a bit to get the timing right. If your rice is not soft enough, you may also want to add more water. While fluffing the rice, stir any of the coconut residue back into the rice. Enjoy with any stew.

3 cups in the rice cooker (or on stove top): The rice cooker is my preferred every day way to cook rice, especially when family or guests are around. For 3 cups I  use 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk (and a few tablespoons of the cream if making a rich version, along with 3.5 to  4 cups of water (Use a little more if cooking on the stove top). If I want to dress it up a little, I increase the proportion of coconut milk and/or add a little turmeric (about 1/2 to a teaspoon) or a few strands of saffron to give it a lovely golden color. I used 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) to give this rice its pale yellow 
tint and delicate flavor.


16 cups  cooked in the oven  
(for ~ 60 people: 1/4 cup rice=1 serving=1/2 cup cooked rice):
NOTE: I have a large oven that will fit 2 large roasting pans with covers in it. Recipe can easily be halved:

16 cups of rice (already washed)
2 cans  of coconut milk with cream (or milk and cream from 2 coconuts)
salt (1/4 teaspoon for each cup of rice, or ~1 1/2 Tablespoons)
~30 cups of water

Prepare coconut milk and cream (or open cans)
Bring 32 cups of water to a boil on the stove top in one or 2 large pots. Add the salt and coconut milk/cream to the water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Put half of the rice in each of 2 large roasting pans. (8 cups in each). Open the preheated oven, pull out the racks and place the pans on them. Put  half (14-15 cups of the hot water/coconut/salt mixture in each pan. You can always add a little more water later if the rice is too dry). Stir. Cover immediately with lids and gently push in the racks and close the oven. After about 30 minutes open the oven, carefully tilt and  lift the lids (avoiding the steam) and stir. Reheat the water still in the pan and add more if necessary. Replace the lid and allow the rice to finish cooking. It may take 45 minutes to an hour. As with the version in the rice cooker, you can add a teaspoon or more of turmeric to each pan and stir it to blend if you wish to color it. If the rice seems too wet, simply remove the lid near the end of the cooking. This is the only way I can make large quantities of rice without having them go mushy on me the way they do when I cook on top of the stove.

Recipe #56: Coconut-pineapple-banana-vanilla smoothie

The last few times I've been in Ghana and have prepared fruit smoothies, I have found my friends and family  wildly enthusiastic about them, and frequently am asked for directions on preparing them. This is just another example of the creativity and openess to experimentation of many Ghanaians. Once again, smoothies are more a concept than a recipe, but since I've been in the kitchen this morning writing and preparing coconut rice, I'm taking a break to cool off. Yesterday I noticed that some fresh pineapple was starting to look slightly tired and in need of freezing to prevent it going bad, so I popped it in the freezer, along with a banana. Since I was making coconut milk and cream yesterday, it's a natural to combine them with a few ice cubes (or ice blocks, as they tend to say in Ghana), and a little bit of Madagascar vanilla bean I picked up at Pete's coffee shop in Berkeley a few weeks ago (I'm sure vanilla extract would work, too). Let me go combine them 

1 cup of frozen pineapple chunks, 
1 frozen banana cut into chunks, 
4 or 5 ice cubes,
an inch of vanilla bean (or 1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 cup of rich coconut milk. 

I never peel my bananas before I freeze them, so if you follow my lead, be prepared for cold hands while you peel frozen bananas (I always use a knife). Also,  break up the pieces of frozen pineapple as you put them into the blender. Finally, if you have a sweet tooth, add a couple of teaspoons of some kind of sweetener like honey, sugar, or syrup.) Let me go and blend this together and let you know how it comes out. My daughter Masi called from Nigeria yesterday and when I mentioned that I was going to make this, said "Oh, it sounds just like a pina colada without the rum." She's right.Unfortunately I cannot locate any fresh sugar cane locally today to make swizzle sticks to make the drink more playful. (I'll post some sugar cane recipes when I can locate some.) Oh well, use your imagination today!

Oh, yum!!!! This really makes enough for 2 people, but since I'm alone today it's all mine. A perfect way to end my time in the kitchen. I was in a hurry to drink it so I grabbed some pineapple mint and spearmint from the garden and set it right down outside the door to photograph it. BTW, I happen to love frosty cold drinks, but you could also blend unfrozen pineapple and banana with a few ice cubes to make a "milder" version. . . And you know, I'll bet it wouldn't be bad with a little rum, either. . .

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