About the Recipe
Freshly picked young okra from my garden are slow-cooked in an aromatic tomato sauce until tender.
It is said that this vegetable originated in Africa, and in Zimbabwe okra, known as derere, is popular eaten with sadza, a local corn-based staple food. The sticky nature of okra gives the succulent stew its velvety body. This melt-in-your-mouth East Mediterranean vegan dish called bamia is delicious served with rice pilaf either warm or at room temperature.
Some Rhodeslis, however, prefer to bake the cooked okra in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) for 20 minutes to brown the bamia and thicken the sauce with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It’s a comforting autumn dish that I hope you will enjoy!
750g (11⁄2lb) fresh small okra, about 6cm (21⁄2in) long
1⁄2 cup white wine vinegar 1 tbsp kosher or coarse salt 2 tbsp vegetable oil 3 tbsp olive oil 2 large onions, cut in half lengthways, thinly sliced 1⁄2 tsp Turkish red pepper flakes 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced 1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped ripe tomatoes or canned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste 1 tsp sugar 1 tsp sea salt 1⁄2 tsp finely ground white pepper 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 cup hot water or as needed
Prepare the okra: Trim the tips and pare the conical caps of the okra pods with a paring knife, being careful not to expose the seeds and sticky juices inside. This technique takes practice. Place the okra in a flat glass dish and sprinkle with the vinegar and salt. Let the okra soak for 30 minutes. Rinse well, 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 flavour.
Cook the okra: Heat the olive oil in a medium, shallow pan over a high heat. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Scatter the okra over the tomato sauce, add the lemon juice and pour in enough hot water to just cover the okra. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes or until the okra is tender. Gently shake the pan from side to side occasionally to distribute the tomato sauce. Do not stir so as not to break the okra. Add more hot water as necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.