Okras. You might have only seen them in some oriental restaurant, or maybe in a trip to an exotic land, and never knew what they are good for. You also might had some inner fears, how to deal with this gooey texture and make it edible. So that’s why I’m here for, to take you to the promised land of cooking okras as if you were doing it since the day you have learned to chew.
So, let’s start from the beginning. Why to learn how to cook okras? First, and maybe most important, they taste great. Second, they are healthy. To be precise, okras are one of the best vegetable sources of vitamin C and calcium. And to conclude, because you never know when you might need to be able to cook something you can eat also after a nasty visit to your dentist.
One thing which is important to know: there are two kinds of okra. The small, fatter okras are softer, break easily and produce a sort of gooey slime while cooking. This can be either reduced or utilized to thicken your sauce. If you want to reduce it’s appearance, you should cut the upper part of the fresh okra and let it dry in the sun for several hours. I usually recommend it, especially if you use really fresh young okras. This type of okras is better for soups or curries. In case you use this kind of okra, try to select the younger, smaller ones as they are less fibery.
The long okras are harder, thicker, and better for short cooking, frying and stir frying. They are lovely as chips with a bit of salt and lemon juice.
The Immediate suspect while cooking with okras is Kuba dumpling soup, but I’d suggest to try some other recipes, that will give okras a major place. The first recipe is for sweet and spicy stir fried long okras with beets and habanero chillies, and the other two are for a casserole and a curry using the small, softer okras.
Sweet&Spicy Stir Fried Okras
250g long, hard okras
1 habanero pepper
2 small beet roots
1 medium onion
1 medium tomato
1/4 cup water
Salt to taste
Juice from 1/2 lime
Handful shredded peanuts
Start with cutting the onion to large chunks, then saute them until slightly golden. Then, add the beets, cut to quarters and then to thin slices. Once a bit soft, add the okras and stir, until the edges start to turn gold. Grate the tomato and chop the pepper, and add to the pan. Add a bit of water, just enough to stop the frying process. Season with salt, cover and let simmer for around 5 minutes, just to allow everything soften a bit. After removing from the flame, squeeze some lime juice and top with peanuts.
Chickpea-Okra Casserole With Potato Wedges
2 large potatoes cut to wedges
250 g small okras
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 can tomato puree
5 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt, pepper, fresh thyme
Start with frying the potatoes in a heavy casserole pot on a high flame. Once golden and almost ready to eat, reduce the flame, add pepper, thyme and garlic and mix well. Cover with the tomato puree, season with salt, and add the okras and chickpeas. If needed, add some water, Cook for 20-30 minutes on a low flame and serve.
500g small okras
3 medium onions
1/2 cup red lentils or 1 cup green and peeled fava beans
3 cloves of garlic
1 bird’s eye chili
Spices: 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dry ginger, 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek, salt to taste
Start with sauteing the onions, in big chunks, until slightly golden. Then add the spices (except the salt) and garlic. Stir well and add a bit of water to stop from frying. Add everything else and cover with boiling water. Cook over medium flame for 30-40 minutes, until everything is soft and thick. Serve with some jeera rice or plain white rice.