For me, there is something comforting about the fragrance of coconut… not only evocative of sunshine and holidays, but also of the south east asian cuisine which uses coconut as a basic flavouring, fat, liquid or to add texture to either a sweet of savoury dishes. When I was growing up, although coconut milk and flesh were used prolifically, cooking with coconut oil wasn’t the ‘done’ thing – it was considered to be unhealthy, high in cholesterol and went rancid quickly. Years later it has now become acceptable with its own ‘superfood’ status – in fact super everything with uses from cooking through to moisturising and skincare. I can just hear my mothers voice telling me how they used to skim the oil off the top of the coconut cream and that was the basis of many dishes – heated until fragrant, and then the spices added to up the ante on the fragrance! She would also dissuade me from putting it in my hair, telling me I would smell like this ladies in the market who would coat their hair in coconut oil and then it would go rancid in the heat… not a smell I recall!
Vegetables cooked in coconut milk, or ‘Sayur Lodeh’ as it is more commonly known in Malaysia is one of my all time favourites, and one of the very first Asian dishes i learnt to cook confidently. I remember cooking it at university as a little went a long way with its creamy coconut and heady fragrant flavours. Served with brown or white rice, there is not even any need to meat or fish, although it does make the perfect accompaniment to a spicy grilled chicken or fish.
My mothers recipe follows….its very easy and packed full of flavour!
Mixed Vegetables In Coconut.
A selection of vegetables – sliced to a similar size.shape. Eg shredded cabbage, green beans, mushrooms, carrots, peppers, baby corn.
1 can of coconut milk
1 Tbs Coconut oil
1 onion – skinned and sliced thinly.
4 lime leaves
1 stalk lemongrass
1 tsp fresh turmeric
1 1/2 tsp minced galangal
1Tbs fish sauce
1 – 2 sliced red chillies
1/2 tsp sugar
1TBS lime or lemon juice
Chopped coriander to garnish & Taste (and curry leaves if available)
Cut all the vegetables into neat pieces and keep aside
Heat the coconut oil in a pan and add the onions lime leaves, garlic and galangal. Saute until soft and fragrant,
Add in the coconut milk and the vegetables and bring to the boil.
Simmer until the liquid has reached has reached the thickness of single cream.
Add the lemon juice and sliced chillies, along with the chopped coriander.