Friday, 6 March 2015

12. Stir-Fried Okra


"Stir-Fried-Okra-2008" by Kham Tran - - 

I have often eaten Creole and Indian okra dishes in my travels around the world, notably in Mauritius, Georgia’s Magnolia Midlands, and California, but I had never cooked it myself. I am indebted to my friend Nikki, who hails from the Punjab, for this simple spicy Indian recipe for me to try after I bought some okra and spices at 'Barrow Boys', my local greengrocer on the Isle of Wight recently.
Okra can produce a rather unappetising slimy effect in the cooking, resulting from secretions from the okra pods. Nikki's recipe however cuts out the slippery texture and her spiced Okra recipe is  pleasantly crunchy. 
Okra is a signature Southern ingredient in US cuisine and is extensively used in African, Indian and Asian cooking. The okra plant is thought to have originated in north-east Africa and is first documented in 13th century Egyptian Arab cooking. The plant crossed the Atlantic with the slave traders in the 17th century.
You can also pickle okra and I look forward to adding some jars to my kitchen cupboard later in the year.

Ingredients: Serves 2.
250g okra; 1½ tbs. oil; ½ tsp. each of cumin seeds, coriander powder, cayenne, turmeric, asafoetida, mango powder, salt; 1 tbs. flour; ½ red or yellow bell pepper, (or tomato finely chopped).

Method: Preparation 10 mins. Cook 20 mins.
Wash okra and pat dry. Top and tail the okra and cut into ½ cm pieces. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Add cumin seeds and when they crack, add the okra. Stir for a minute then reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for a further three minutes. Remove cover and add coriander, cayenne, turmeric and flour.  Stir-fry for 8 or 10 minutes until okra is tender but crunchy and browned. Add mango powder, bell peppers or tomatoes and finally, (but not before), the salt. Stir-fry for further minute and serve.

Health benefits of Okra
Although providing just 30 calories per 100g, Okra pods are a rich source of dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins, and contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. Okra pods contain vitamins A, C and K; folates;  trace metals iron, calcium, potassium, zinc  manganese and magnesium. Okra may have some anti-cancer properties for breast and prostate cancers, and melanoma due to its antioxidant and lecithin content. 

Further reading:
Indian Okra Recipes
Creole Okra Recipes
Malaysian Okra Recipes
Okra as a cancer inhibiter 
All about Okra

Food for thought: The kitchen is a country in which there are always discoveries to be made.
Grimod de la Reyniere
Almanach des Gourmands. 1804

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