Okra is a vegetable that is not used that much in the West but I absolutely love it. It is sold either fresh, frozen or dried and it has many health benefits. Some people might not like it because it can be gooey if not cooked properly. This problem is not an issue if you are using young frozen okra, as I am doing in this recipe, which are pan-fried prior to adding the tomatoes. Lemon juice can also solve this problem completely so you can add some lemon juice to my recipe if using fresh okra.
As a child I used to really enjoy helping mum in preparing okra for our winter food supplies. We would use a needle and a thread to string okra like a necklace, which then was hung up to dry. I do not use the dried ones these days, instead I always keep a few packets of frozen okra in my freezer.
This is a dish that I love to make when I get invited to a friend’s home, and I am asked to contribute. It makes a great side dish. In Lebanon it is usually consumed with flat bread and a salad on the side.
Note: Traditionally many people would deep fry the okra first, which will stop the okra from going gooey. I prefer not to as it soaks up quite a bit of oil. I prefer to just pan fry it. I do not use lemon juice in the traditional recipe, but I recommend that you do use it if you are using fresh okra, or if you prefer a slightly lemony flavour.
Prep time: 10 min
Cooking time: 60 min
1 packet of 400 g frozen okra (whole not pieces)
3 medium size brown onions
6 garlic cloves
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 tea-spoon seven spice mix / or black pepper
4 table-spoons olive oil
1 tea-spoon sea salt
juice of 1/2 lemon (optional but do add it if using fresh okra)
1/4 cup water
Rinse okra and place aside to defrost. Peel and cut onions in half then slice (photo below). Peel and slice each clove of garlic into two or three pieces.
Heat olive oil in a wide pot, a wok is great, then add onions, fry on medium heat until golden. Add okra and garlic and pan fry for about ten minutes, tossing it every now and then.
Add tomatoes, seven spice and salt, and toss for a few minutes, add water and lemon if you are using it. Bring to boil and let it simmer for about 30 minutes or until sauce is thick and flavouresome and okra is tender and well cooked. Adjust spices and salt to taste if necessary and serve.