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Okra Stewed with Fresh Tomatoes

Bamia kon tomat

About the Recipe

This popular East Mediterranean vegan dish is a favorite amongst the Rodeslis, is served as a side as a mezze, or a main dish with rice pilaf. I like bamia with a slab of creamy Greek feta with lots of crusty bread to mop up the tasty sauce.
It is said that this vegetable originated in Africa, and in Zimbabwe where I live, okra known as derere is often accompanied with sadza, a local corn-based staple food. Growing up as a child I recall okra was also known as “lady’s fingers” and I remember my mother painstakingly trimming them when they were in season.


  • 1½lb (750g) fresh young okra (or frozen*)

  • ½ cup white wine vinegar

  • 1 tbsp salt

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 3 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 cup peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped ripe tomatoes (or canned chopped tomatoes)

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • 1 ½ cup hot water or more as needed

  • ¼ cup dill, chopped

  • Lemon wedges to serve


1. Prepare the okra: Trim the tips and pare the tough conical caps of the okra stems with a paring knife, being careful not to expose the seeds and sticky juices inside. Rinse and marinate the okra in a flat glass dish in vinegar and salt for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Stir-fry the okra in batches until they are bright green and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a colander allowing the sticky residue to drain. This helps retain the okra’s shape and enhances the flavor.

2. Heat the olive oil in a shallow, heavy-based pan over a high heat. Stir in the onions, sauté for 3 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, the chopped tomatoes, sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute.

3. Scatter the okra over the tomato sauce, pour the lemon juice and enough hot water to just cover the okra. Stir, cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 40 minutes or until the okra are very tender and the sauce has reduced. Gently shake the pan from side to side occasionally to distribute the tomato sauce. Do not stir so as not to break the delicate okra. Check regularly adding a little more hot water as needed. Taste and adjust salt, lemon juice. Stir in the fresh dill.

4. Serve hot with vermicelli rice or crusty bread and lemon wedges.

Stella’s Tip: *You can cook frozen okra and add directly into the prepared tomato sauce. Reduce the amount of water in the recipe and skip the steps to prepare the okra as frozen okra are ready to use.

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