Thursday, 17 June 2010

cacao kills cockroaches

I believe that every creature has a place and a role in the world. However there are certain creatures which I just don't want to share space with. I have various agreements with several species: scorpions, larger ants, spiders, biting flies, that if we share space we are purely courteous and harm no-one. It works: and on those rare instances when it doesn't then usually that creature is removed from our common space. Cockroaches too have a place and I can be fond of them, cleaning and clearing away our detritus, but somehow reviled more than all the flies, ants and wasps which share the same momentous task: they are the vultures of the insect world. They're actually quite cute up close.

However there is a point beyond tolerance and I reached it this week. They got into my chickpea flour.

I live in the jungle and I am fully aware that I am here as a guest and part of the honour is that I share the space with all the other inhabitants. Everything in my kitchen is double bagged and in tupperware boxes. I am oh so well aware of all the ants, flies, mites, weevils, grasshoppers, stink bugs, and endless strange looking 6 leggededs, as well as the myriad spores of yeasts, molds, fungi, plus all the bacteria, protozoa and multi formed parasites that live here too. I've played host to a number of the best of them. Oh yes. But when the roaches finally break through into my chickpea flour, take up residence in my traveling coffee mug and eat the onions in my veggie basket, I'm over it.

Cacao kills cockroaches. I imagine it's the same mixture of chemicals which pep us up, which causes a heartattack or overloads the cockroach to death, but the result is quick and final. But cacao is also rather an expensive - if all organic - way to go. So yesterday I made some special killer candy. Roaches love onion and orange juice, and chickpea flour, I blended chopped onion with just enough orange juice to wet it, added some chickpea flour and powdered boric acid. The mix I formed into patties and placed around the kitchen and bathroom on top of squares of old plastic bags (easy to move and a lot cleaner). The boric acid takes up to 10 days to work. It's a slow and nasty death of starvation and dehydration, and I'm sorry for that. Cacao would be better. When I get the population down I might switch to smaller amounts of cacao powder, or might mix cacao in with the borax.

It's a nasty business.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

homemade coconut oil

Anyone with access to a coconut, a grater, and a stove can make coconut oil. And I recommend anyone try it, it's time consuming but really educational in that it proves once and for all why coconut oil is such a luxury and so expensive.

Ideally you'll want fully mature coconuts, the heavy ones that don't sound full of liquid. Open, save the liquid, remove and grate the flesh. The easiest way to do this is by using a juicer like a Champion (we have a Jack LaLarres). If you don't have a juicer then a blender or food processor works too. We use a coconut grater from the south pacific which looks like a rising sun.
Grate the coconut. If you use a juicer it will separate the coconut cream from the meat. If you use anything else you will get a nice moist pile of shavings mixed with liquid. Mix this pile with a small amount of water, mix thoroughly and then squeeze the liquid from the flesh. I use an old pillowcase. You want to use the minimum amount of water as it will be cooked out later and will just lengthen the cooking time. Squeeze as hard as you can to get as much of that lovely milk out. Save the flesh for baking, or for curries, or for the dogs. It's important to have helpers clean the coconut shells:

Whichever method you use, let the milk sit for several hours, preferably overnight (in the fridge is fine too). This allows the milk to separate, skim the cream from the surface and put in a pot. If you get some of the milk too it's not a problem, you'll just make coconut cheese. I always skip this step as I am impatient and I love coconut cheese.

Bring the cream / milk to a slow boil stirring ALL the time. Reduce to a simmer and stir. Now you will wonder why you used so much water. Stir, stir, stir.

Gradually the water will evaporate, the cream will thicken to a slushy paste like consistency and you will be bathed in coconut steam. Keep stirring. Slowly the cream will begin to separate and you will see the beginnings of the oil, it will puddle around the edges at first. Keep stirring.

More and more of the coconut cream will become oil. Curds of coconut cheese will begin to form, these will be small separate chunks, almost the same shape as cottage cheese curds but less than half the size. At some point you will notice that there's no more oil forming and the cheese is beginning to change colour. Remove from heat, allow to cool and pour through a sieve to filter out the cheese. Store the coconut oil in a wide mouthed jar in the fridge, eat the cheese! The cheese is an excellent addition to baked potatoes, salads, actually anything savoury. It's the closest a vegetarian could get to crispy bacon. It's very good, the only place I've heard it being sold is Hawaii, but it must be available elsewhere. I do hope you make this and I do hope you enjoy it. If you do, please leave me a comment!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

where are all the flowers?

It's June already but something's missing. Where are all the flowers and all the developing fruit? There are no flowers on the mangosteen; the branches are bare of buds on the durian; there are no fallen petals below the champedak; no bees are buzzing round the rambutan; there's no early morning pollination of vanilla. There are no flowers. Which means there will be no fruit. Unless somehow it's all just late this year, but even if the farm is about to explode in blossom then that puts the fruit season back to November / December with the rains. Possible I guess.

It's very quiet. What about all those nectar loving insects, bats, birds and mammals? And what about those who rely on taking part of our harvest every year? All those oropendulas or iguanas for example, will there be enough fruit to share?
I hope so . . . I hope so.