With mom and dad visiting this past summer I had the help I needed to put together one of the most requested recipes, coconut chutney. A spicy condiment which is an excellent topping for many of the street foods you’d find being sold in Trinidad and Tobago, especially ‘doubles’. Traditionally a mortar and pestle or ‘seal’ (a flat stone with a rounded one for grinding) would be used in making coconut chutney. With this in mind you’ll notice that we did encounter some problems getting the right texture, but we found a good medium in using the box grater along with a food blender.
1 dried coconut
3 cloves garlic
1 scotch bonnet pepper
4 leaves of Chadon Beni (culantro)
Notes. If you can’t source shado beni, you can also use twice the amount of cilantro. If you wondering why I needed help in making something so simple.. I hate grating, so I got dad to jump in with the box grater. Grated my fingers as a kid and the memory is still fresh.
When buying a dried coconut be aware of the following. Give it a shake and ensure you can hear liquid moving around inside. The dried coconut may be wrapped in a plastic wrap (especially in North America), this helps to keep them fresh and quite normal.
Using the back (NOT THE BLADE) of a cleaver or a large chef’s knife (a hammer works well also) , tap on the hard shell, to crack open. Do this over your sink so the water inside will pour out without having a mess on your counter. It will take a few hard taps to crack open. With care, use a pairing or butter knife (whatever you feel comfortable using), separate the white flesh from the hard shell. Basically putting the blade between the shell and flesh with a prying motion.
Discard the hard shell part and place the flesh (no need to remove the sort of brown skin on the exterior) on an open flame. I used my grill, but you can use your stove top (it will make a mess) or place on a foil lined tray in a high oven. Let it roast on the open flame, flip often and try to get it a bit charred. Will take a few minutes. It will take much longer if you’re using an oven.
It will go charred.. doh fret! This is exactly what we’re looking for. Allow it to cool a bit so you can safely handle it. Now scrape of any excessively charred bits and give it a good rinse with cool water. It’s now time to grate or you can cut into small pieces and place directly into a blender or food processor. Only after grating did we notice that the texture was not as traditional coconut chutney. So we then placed the grated coconut in a blender, along with the salt, shado beni, scotch bonnet pepper (add more or less according to how spicy you like it) and garlic. Blend!
If using a blender as we did, you’ll need to add a little water to allow it to work. Adding water is not traditional but it didn’t affect the taste at all. You’re looking for a somewhat smooth paste, but with a texture close to grains of sand.
This coconut chutney is meant to be very spicy, but you can control the heat by how much scotch bonnet pepper you add. Do remember that if you’re concerned about raw heat, don’t use any of the seeds of the pepper and do wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling such lethal peppers. Store in the fridge for a few days, but it’s best when used fresh.