I apologize for being out of touch, but I have a good excuse. P, the kids, and I have been on remote Ono Island in Fiji for the past two weeks. Quiet, ocean, rain, cards, and books have defined our lazy days.
Travel is funny. You go somewhere with preconceived notions of what a place will be like and the time you plan to have. We went to Fiji sure that we would have endless sunny days of beach combing and snorkeling. Nature had other plans - rain and plenty of it.
We imagined our big adventure to be a year of summer. So confident in our tropical destinations, we didn't even pack a pair of jeans. In the end, we may not be able to claim our family's trip to be the year of sunshine, though I do think we could deem it the year of the coconut.
I am all about eating whatever is fresh and locally grown, and coconut is the bumper crop in these tropical locales. Man oh man, we have eaten coconut every which way and I have written about coconut sugar, coconut milk, shredded coconut, coconut oil... Thank goodness I LOVE coconut. Now in Fiji, a new yummy dish has been added to my repertoire - roasted coconut.
At Mai Dive, our comfortable home for these three Fijian weeks, every evening as the sun goes down, we sit around with the other guests, having a drink before dinner. When the bowl of freshly roasted, and still warm, coconut is put on the table, it is devoured as everyone seems to like this simple snack as much as I do.
Joe, the charming patriarch of our peaceful Fijian spot, is a wealth of information. P and I soak up his stories like thirsty children. No surprise, I am especially enthralled when the subject of food comes up - Joe tells tales of mud crabs freshly caught and simply steamed, seaweed harvested straight off the beach and simmered in coconut cream, and his huge beloved veggie garden leaves me awed.
I told Joe just how much I like the smoked coconut and he took the time to teach me the old-school Fijian approach to this simple treat. He told me that he and his buddies sit around the evening fire, drinking beer and eating coconut right off the grill. Hmmmm..... tropical bar snack? Yes, please.
Coconut can easily be roasted in the oven or on the stove-top. Prepared this way, it has delicious flavor that is reminiscent of popcorn. But when the coconut is grilled over an open fire, the deep smokey flavor is irresistible. Our new friend Magda astutely noted that the wood roasted coconut has hints of bacon - in my book a mark of culinary greatness.
- fresh coconut (s) in the shell
For ideal smokey flavor, get your fire started.
In the meantime hack open your coconut (s) - Joe used an axe.
Then with a knife, slice the coconut flesh into strips about 3-5 inches long by 3/4 inch wide and pry coconut from the shell. If slices are too small, they will be hard to handle on the fire.
When you are done removing and slicing the coconut meat, set it aside and check on the fire. Let the flames settle down until you have good hot coals but no big flames.
Place a grate over the top of your fire, scatter some sliced coconut over the grill. Use tongs to flip slices and cook each side until golden brown. Let cool slightly and coconut is ready to eat.
I can see why the Fijians like sitting around the fire snacking of freshly smoked coconut- not only is it seductively delicious, but the smell is one I wish I could bottle and share with you all.