My family makes this Coconut Conjee w/ Peanut Chutney every Good Friday. To me, it’s comfort food at it’s best! Vegan + Gluten-free!
So you know how I’ve said (so very many times) that I grew up in a family that lives to eat? Well, I cannot give you more proof to that statement than with the story behind this Coconut Congee. Good Friday (the day Jesus was crucified to death), is a day of great sorrow, reflection and prayer for Christians all over the world. I come from a family of devout Catholics, and on Good Friday, we eat just one meal (lunch) and fast the remaining two meals. Most of the day is spent going on a pilgrimage to 9 churches around the city, ending the day with Stations of the Cross and Mass at our parish in the evening.
Our grandparents instructed us from childhood the seriousness of the day,and we weren’t allowed to laugh, or play, watch TV or even talk loudly or unnecessarily. The day was to be spent in silent contemplation of the sacrifice Jesus made to save mankind from eternal damnation.
And despite all that, Good Friday also happens to be one of the best lunches we have each year. Completely Vegan, it’s a huge spread that we eat on a banana leaf (the only time of the year we do that!), starting with this Coconut Conjee.
What’s so special about this Coconut Congee?
Well, this is no ordinary congee – a food that is generally meant for the sick. This one is flavoured with green cardamom, cloves and is doused in a ton of coconut milk. When I asked my grandmother why we eat so well on such a sorrowful day, she explained that we offer food to God before we eat (yeah, we literally reserve a place setting at the altar on special occasions and only after a short family prayer giving thanks do we all sit down to eat), and he is already having a bad day. The best thing we can do for him, is to at least make sure he eats well.
Now as a grown up you are probably thinking, ‘what? That makes no sense’, and I totally agree. But as a kid, that made total sense, and for whatever reason, this was what our Good Friday lunches looked like:
Coconut Conjee w/ Peanut Chutney, Rice, Drumstick Sambar, Roasted+Spiced potatoes, Lightly seasoned Cabbage w/ fresh grated coconut, Brinjal curry and lots of crispy Papad. As long as my grandmother was alive, we also had a Bitter-gourd curry, to represent the bitterness of the occasion, but after her passing, there were no takers for that, so it was discontinued from practice. But every year, on Good Friday, and ONLY on Good Friday, did we partake in this one-of-a-kind feast.
Drown the mung dal and rice in water -it helps to soak it for 30mins to reduce cooking time. If you are opting to soak, drain and rinse and use fresh water to cook. Here’s why you must not cook using the soaking liquid.
Cardamom and Cloves lend this Coconut Conjee a light and refreshing fragrance and flavour. Add these whole spices to the pot while you cook the rice. I use a pressure cooker to cook rice and lentils, so it shouldn’t take more than 5-8 minutes to cook soft.
Once the rice and lentils are cooked mushy-soft, (and just before serving), douse the lot generously with coconut milk. I used canned coconut milk diluted with water, but if you’re extracting from fresh coconuts, you can use the first extract directly.
I like my conjee stiff (not too watery), but if you want it at a drinking consistency, double the amount of coconut milk + water listed in the recipe below.
While the rice is cooking, make the peanut chutney with roasted (skinned) peanuts, roasted mung dal, tamarid juice, dry red chillies and garlic. Don’t add too much water though, you want this to be just a tad runnier than peanut butter!
Be warned that all this coconut milk can make you feel drowsy. I know, because every year at the 3 ‘o clock prayer in the afternoon, my brother and I would be fighting sleep and loosing the battle! Ah, memories!
When you make these (which I really think you SHOULD!), be sure to SHARE YOUR PHOTOS with me through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I’d love to see what you cook from here and will share it with pride on my social media feeds.