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Crunchy Keralan salad
With creamy coconut, juicy mango and peppers
“This fresh coconut salad is inspired by the flavours of sunny southern India – it's absolute heaven ”
This is a fantastic and really unusual salad that was inspired by a friend of mine called Das who runs the most terrific Indian restaurants in London, called Rasa. Although I have called it ‘Keralan’, it isn't really a true salad from there as you'd never find cress in Kerala!
In Rasa, Das uses a lot of fresh coconut – which really is one of the most incredible flavours for making dishes like curries, or mixed into rice, breads, desserts and salads. You can now buy coconuts from most supermarkets, but if you can't find one, feel free to make this salad without it – it will still be pretty good but it won't have that special edge to it. Only make this when the mangoes are silky smooth and not at all stringy. You should be able to cut through them like butter.
First of all you need to crack open the shell of the coconut. I normally do this by placing it on a tea towel on a hard surface and then giving it a wallop with a rolling-pin or a hammer. Once you've cracked it open you can pull it apart (being careful not to spill the milk everywhere!), discarding the hard outer shell. The dark skin on the outside of the coconut's flesh doesn't bother me, especially if I'm grating it. But if you want to remove it, a speed peeler works quite well.
Once you've got into your coconut, cut the peppers into quarters, remove the stalks and seeds, then finely slice. Trim your cress directly from its punnet (the easiest way to do this is to take the cress out of the punnet, wash the leafy end and stalks under a tap, then slice the stalk end off and discard it). Trim your spring onions and finely slice them. Cut the mango flesh off the stones and finely slice it (there is a knack to doing this properly – if you look at the shape of the mango, the flat stone always lies the same way, parallel with the flattest sides, so you should be able to slice the flesh off with not too much wastage). Get your pieces of coconut and grate them finely. Put all these ingredients into a large salad bowl.
Lime and ginger work together really well in the dressing. Finely grate the ginger and lime zest into a small bowl, then add the lime juice and olive oil. Season to taste, and add more oil as necessary to balance the flavours of your dressing. Limes can be different strengths depending on their juiciness and size.
Dress the salad just before serving, saving any extra dressing for another day, and eat straight away. Great just as it is, or with some grilled prawns or satay chicken. Also lovely as a snack inside a wrap or flatbread. So even though the coconut may be a pain to prepare it's well worth it...