Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kitchen Essentials: Kanthne - Coconut Scraper for grating coconut

Coconut is used very heavily in Manglorean cooking. I think grandma used to use up over 6-8 coconuts a day when the whole family was over for meals. Mum still uses about 4-5 a day when we are all at home and she wants to cook Manglorean food for us.

Most Manglorean food, needing coconut, needs it to be grated: whether it will be used as it is, ground into a masala paste or if the milk has to be extracted, the coconut needs to be grated first.

The only city I have ever been able to buy freshly grated coconut is Bombay. Its easy to make do with frozen coconut, but the taste is obviously way beter if you are using fresh coconut.

When living in Egypt, there was a time when all the coocnuts arriving in the market were rotten. At that time, I did substitute dessicated coconut, by soaking it in a few tsps of milk first.

If coconut oil is not available, you can get a hint of the flavour by roasting dessicated coconut in a non-stongly flavored cooking oil.

But nothing, can beat the taste of a freshly grated cooconut.

The traditional Manglorean implement for grating the coconut is the "kanthne".
It is a short stool with a serrated blade attached at the end.

The person doing the grating has to sit astride the kanthne with the serrated blade in front of them.
Using several practiced movements, the flesh is scraped away from the shell.

The curve of the blade ensures that you get every bit of flesh away from the curved shell.

That's how much flesh you can get out of half a coconut.
I don't like the last dry bits of the edges as they add a brownish color to the dishes, and are dryer in texture thats why there is still a few slivers of flesh left inside the shell.

Voila - the freshly grated coconut!

As I mentioned at the beginning, this grated coconut can be used directly in dishes and desserts. It can be ground for masalas, coconut milk can be extracted out of it.

A few teaspoons of this normally does end up in my mouth. I love the taste of fresh coconut. Slip a little sugar into it or some pieces of jaggery and its an instant pick me up.

When the maids used to grate coconuts in grandma's house or if I could manage to let them allow me to do the grating myself (the blade is very sharp and grandma didn't like the "children" anywhere near the blade,) I always popped a few teaspoons into my mouth. But nana being nana always knew if any flesh was missing from the plate (she also knew if any mangoes were missing from the trees!). She used to give me an old Manglorean warning which said that yeh tuve kelyaar, tujha rosachya disak paus yetale puta if you eat the grated coconut which is meant for cooking, it will rain on the day of your roce (Manglorean ceremony held the day before the wedding)

I think it did drizzle before my roce!

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