I had tried on many occassions to perfect my coconut chutney but was never satisfied with the result. It really wasn’t that bad or unedible but just not as delicious as I had hoped. Then a few years back I inherited a recipe from my friend Sammi’s late grandmother Yenktamma Naidu. Everyone fondly knew her as Awa. Coming from a South Indian I felt like I had been handed a family heirloom and felt mighty proud.😊Since then I have been making my coconut chutney Awa’s way. I will forever be indebted to her for passing her recipe to me. God bless her soul.
Recently I was reminiscing and went straight back into my Fiji flashback.💭It was the weekend, Saturday to be precise, a day I knew I will be allowed to catch up with my school mates and go and show off my “mufti day” clothes. I loved not having to wear my school uniform and letting my hair out which was a change from having to coconut oil it to plait it with ribbons. I wore my best outfit and waited for my friends to turn up so we could just hang out and do a full round walk of our small city. We made sure we walked slowly (not much choice in the heat) so it would take the max time to cover from one end to the other. Yes, that was our Lautoka city small and cute. Then after lunch we would stroll to Marine Drive harbour and sit and watch the ships sail by and throw rocks into the sea.
Most of our weekends were spent watching any and every Bollywood movies at the cinemas. Even better when your parents owned one. It was free VIP entries for us. My parents always knew where to find my missing siblings and I….hiding in the cinema which was our second home. We would snack on fried peas, bhuja mixes and sip soft drink. Soft drinks were luxury items to have those days so you can imagine how much I looked forward to enjoying each sip followed by a burp or two. The downside was watching the actors feeding themselves on screen which made us all more hungry. As soon as it was intermission men darted towards the loo or outside to kill their lungs. Women and children made a quick dash to the takeaway shop to buy hot mutton pies and fish and chips. I would love to hear everyone sigh whenever there was a climax scene and say “saaa” (for ahhh or ohhh) or in sad scenes everyone of them in unison will begin to “tch! tch! tch!” (for awww nooo you poor thing) or in fight sequence there will be a very loud Oilei!! (for what I belive is maybe OMG!). And if the movie stopped or the reel finished in the middle of the most exciting scene of a son reuniting with his mum then itll be a mild hurl of abuses like “oyye operator kani kani” (basically meant operator wake up from your Kava induced sleep). Oh! how I miss all that.
As much as I loved watching movies I absolutely hated the cinema halls. I could never relax once the lights turned off. No, not out of fear from being kicked by smelly tinea ridden feet from behind but from far more dangerous things. The “thing”…the thing that petrified me..the thing that could make your skin crawl…the thing that was brown and had antennaes….yucky and gross cockroaches!!!! And those “malteser suckers” could fly I tell ya! Yikesss I could just die.😱I as an adolescent was traumatised by those evil pests. Anyways I managed to survive to see many more movies and finally when I discovered the cinemas in Australia I was cured…aaaah!
Getting to the point…so as soon as it was Saturday I knew mum will be going to the markets to buy some vegies and freshly cooked Idlis and coconut chutney. I always looked forward to that and it wasn’t often the vendors at the markets sold it. I will never forget how delicious the chutney was. I was recently craving it badly so I decided to make a few in experimental batches and see if I could replicate the taste. Finally I think I did it!! I believe I was very close to it. This chutney is my experimental version inspired by Late Awa’s original recipe with a slight twist.
As you all know I cook the lazy way so I’ve used frozen shredded coconut. I have tried many frozen brands but Vadilal’s is by far the best. Obviously you can’t compromise on the fresh taste of grated coconut but this brand comes quite close to it. It’s moist and fluffy in texture and smells heavenly. Hailing from the tropics I happen to know my coconuts (no pun intended😁). A few years back I did it the old fashioned way by placing the coconut grater (shaped somewhat like a cricket bat with prongs attached to it) on a chair with my butt firmly on it and grate away. This chutney is for those lazy cooks who wants something quick because they’de rather be spending time with their family or enjoying “tutti frutti”.😉
This recipe is a special request by a reader and a friend. Roberta Movick this ones for you. Roberta and I met through a Facebook group called Mai Kana whose creator is Dom Sansom. It’s a group where people can discuss, share recipes and showcase images of their scrumptuous and delicious Fijian cuisines. If you’re curious to learn about our food and meet other Fijians this is the place to be. Meet the friendly people of Fiji located from all over the world in one place..oh and of course I, the friendliest one, is there too hehe.😁 If you happen to be on Facebook here’s the direct link https://facebook.com/groups/maikana/ its a closed group so once you send request to join Dom Sansom will open up the doors for you. So see you there!!
2 Cups Frozen Shredded Coconut (I have used Vadilal Brand)
1 Tablespoon Tamarind Pulp
1 Small Garlic Clove
1/2 Medium Sized Onion
5-6 Small Red Chillies (adjust to suit level of hotness)
5-6 Curry Leaves
Salt To Taste
Oil For Tempering
• In a bowl of hot water (about a 1/4 cup) soak tamarind pulp. Set aside for water to cool down.
• Once cooled squeeze the pulp with fingers to release flavour into the infused water? Discard squeezed pulp. Set the paste aside.
• Chop onions, garlic and chillies finely.
• Heat oil in a non-stick frypan.
• Throw in the garlic, chillies, onions and saute till translucent.
• Now add curry leaves, shredded defrosted/thawed coconut and salt and cook till lightly browned.
• Set aside to cool and throw it all into the food processor with the tamarind liquid paste.
• If chutney is too dry to grind add a little bit more water to ensure it turns out moist and fine.
This dish is best served as sides with Idlis and Dosas.