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Okra - A Vegetable or Not?

You might think that okra is a vegetable but it is actually a flowering plant from the mallow family. Known as ladies fingers (a translation of the Igbo - spoken in Nigeria), okra is grown in tropical areas and it is actually the seed pod of the plant which, when picked young, is used as a vegetable.

Although okra is used in eastern Mediterranean and Arab countries, usually in stews and in the USA, breaded and fried, it is in Indian cuisine that it is best known. Called bhindi in Hindi, ladies fingers should be about the size of the ring finger of a small woman; any larger and they will be too tough and hairy to use.

Okra is very versatile and can be stuffed, steamed, curried and fried, but here are a few suggestions for tasty dishes.

Fried Okra

Serves 4 as a side dish

300g okra, cut into pieces
1 medium onion, finely sliced
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
� tsp turmeric
� tsp garam masala
2 green chillies, split
Lemon juice

Heat the oil and fry the onion over a medium heat until lightly browned. Add all the powdered spices and continue frying for a couple of minutes. Add the okra, lemon juice and salt to taste. Mix well, cover and cook for another five minutes until the okra is cooked but still firm.

Okra Curry

Serves 4 as a main or 6-8 as a side dish

500g okra, cut into 2cm pieces
500g potatoes
4 tomatoes, chopped
3 onions chopped
25g root ginger
2 cloves garlic
3 green chillies, halved
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
� tsp turmeric
� tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp oil for frying

Peel the potatoes and either par boil and cut into 2cm dice, or leave raw and cut to about 1cm by 2cm.

Peel the root ginger and the garlic and make into a paste with a little water. You can use a small food processor or just elbow grease and a pestle and mortar if you prefer.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and add the cumin seeds. Have a lid handy as these may spit. Add the onions, the green chillies, the garlic and ginger paste and fry until the onions are lightly browned. Add the tomatoes, coriander, turmeric, chilli powder, potatoes and ladies fingers, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are done.

Crispy Okra

Serves 6-8 people as a side dish

Oil for frying
500g okra, cut lengthwise into thin strips
1 small onion
2 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp chaat masala (see spice mix below)
Lemon juice
A large bunch of coriander leaves

To make the chaat masala dry roast 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 small dried red chilli,1 tbsp cumin seeds and 2 tbsp black pepper corns. Grind to a powder and mix with 1 tbsp dried mango powder. Store in a small airtight jar.

Deep fry the okra in small batches until crisp and drain on kitchen paper. Toss with the onion, tomato and coriander leaves. Squeeze over the lemon juice and season to taste with the chaat masala spice mix and salt.

Submitted by:

Liz Canham

Liz Canham: As well as a love of Asian cooking as you can see in her Asian Food and Cookery website, Liz seeks to help newcomers to the world of internet marketing with tools, tips and training from her Liz-e-Biz website.



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