As we worked on the coconut crab curry for our story on the new tastes of Lisbon, we discovered how easy it is to make coconut milk. Deeply nutty and fragrant, the homemade stuff is more emulsified than even expensive canned versions.
To make it, boil equal parts fresh or bagged shredded coconut and water for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and let rest until cool. For a thicker milk, purée the coconut and water in a blender, then strain through cheesecloth. For a more delicate version, squeeze the soaked flesh by hand to extract the milk.
When making the latter, I like to stir the flavorful leftover flesh into hot oatmeal or cooked rice. I’ve also been steeping the warm milk with chai spices or grated turmeric.
To hack a fresh coconut, set it in a sink drain to stabilize. Then, with a hammer, carefully pound a screwdriver into the top to fissure the flesh. Peel away the shells (drain and reserve any liquid), and use an oyster knife to scoop out the flesh from the inner shell. Grate meat on the fine side of a box grater.