Try this classic Caribbean recipe from Levi Roots’ BBC2 series, Caribbean Food Made Easy… And if you can’t break into a fresh coconut, buy a can of coconut milk
- 1 fresh coconut (or you could use coconut milk in a can)
- 850ml (1½ pint) warm water
- 1 hot red chilli (ideally Scotch bonnet), whole and undamaged
- 7 allspice berries
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1 spring onion, bruised with a rolling pin
- ½ onion, roughly chopped
- 400g can 30g black beans, drained
- Salt and pepper
- 450g (1lb) basmati rice
First you need to get into your coconut. Decide which of the three ‘eyes’ (you’ll see them at one end) is the one you are most likely to be able to break into – only one will work!
Try to penetrate it with a strong, sharp-tipped knife. If that one doesn’t work, try the others.
Pour the coconut water out through the hole and set aside.
Smash the coconut (doing this outside against a bit of concrete is a good idea).
Using a small, sharp knife, lever the coconut flesh away from the shell.
Grate the coconut into a bowl. Pour 650ml (1 pint 2fl oz) water over and stir. Lift the coconut flesh up in fistfuls and squeeze out all the juice into the water. Put the squeezed clumps of grated coconut into a sieve, transfer the coconut water to a saucepan, tip the squeezed coconut back into the bowl and cover with the remaining water. Again lift the coconut flesh up in fistfuls and squeeze out all the juice into the water. Transfer the coconut water to the saucepan. Discard the squeezed-out flesh. Add the coconut water from the coconut to the saucepan at this stage, if you like.
Add all the remaining ingredients, except the basmati, to the saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover, then turn down and simmer over a medium heat for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash the rice, in cold running water until the water is almost clear. Drain, then add to the coconut base. You may need to add some water to bring the level to about 2½cm (1in) above the level of the rice. Season again. Bring to the boil, then cover the rice immediately. Turn the heat down to its lowest level and cook for 15-20 minutes – don’t stir it, and don’t peek inside!
Fish out the spring onion, thyme and chilli, give it a fork to stir it up, and serve immediately.