A very dear friend, who really should have known better, asked me for an okra recipe, because I’m the greatest bhindi lover she knows, she says. She’s having guests over next weekend and rashly decided to make bhindi and recklessly appealed to me for a suitable recipe. I, being the kind of helpful chap I am, will give her two. This is the first of them. Tomorrow, ( yes, I promise! ) you get the other one! Remind me to tell you about her, some day…
A word about this recipe. This ain’t your normal run-of-the-mill okra recipe; the kind I whip together from a frozen pack of pre-cut okra. The kind that goes from freezer to plate in about 19.89655 minutes. Approximately. I don’t actually time these things. But I straddle Leo and Virgo, so some attempt at precision is indicated. Just to keep the Virgo half happy.
Well, then… Actually, I have a story about “Well then.” Umpteen million years ago when I was pretending to study for my university degree course, I joined some dramatic people. Theatrical types. No, no, they didn’t walk around declaiming, exclaiming and emoting. I meant folks involved in the dramatic arts. My acting career actually ended in an under-rehearsed, under-produced commercial rendition of “Spring Awakening”, by Franke Wedekind. One of the characters was called Wendla. Accents being strange things, one of the other actors always pronounced it as “Vendla”. Ever since then, I have always, in my head, said “Vell then, Vendla!”, when confronted with the need to say “Well, then.” Not much of a story. Not much of a role, my role in this play. A bit part, with one line at the funeral, which was effectively the requiem for my thespianism.
Vell, zen, zis is a recipe for a party, one that includes guests you want to impress a bit. It is likely, that telling them you read my blog is not going to be enough. There is, to be fair, always the chance that they may not be impressed by okra, ( bhindi, if Indian ). But if you tell them that this recipe is complicated and that you had to not just follow a complicated recipe but also had to read this blog at the same time, you should see their eyes widen and new respect dawn over their faces. Especially, if they have experienced this blog. ( If not, ask them why not? )
So here goes:
1 kg of fresh bhindi ( “okra” if North American, “ladies finger”, if English speaking Indian ). This recipe is really hard to do with the frozen variety.
2 medium onions
1 ( or 2 ) ( or more ) green chillies ( Thai chillies )
The masala paste from a jar of Indian pickle ( achar, if Indian ) of your choice
Salt to taste
Turmeric – a quarter teaspoon
Garam masala ( melange of Indian spices – coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom etc) < Digression Alert: Why so many spices starting with “C”? Write in and tell me why; I want to know. Please? >
Oil – vegetable oil of your choice.
A food processor. One that pulverizes vegetables into pulp.
Something to stir with. I find the best bet is one of those flat things the Bengalis call khunti. It’s like a small ice-breaker, the kind we in the frozen Tundra need of a winter ( 9 months in a year ) to break down the sheet of ice on the walkways and driveways.
Wash the okra. Pat dry. Set aside to dry some more.
Set up the food processor.
Peel the onions and cut into half, then quarter. First cut this way and then cut that way to do so.
Chuck the onions into the food processor. Bung in the green chilli ( or chillies ).
Whiz the thing together till you get an onion paste. Drain it well.
Now take each okra one by one and make an incision in the side of each. Try, very hard, not to slit it from end to end. Watch your palm! Take your time and use a sharp knife. I would suggest start early in the morning around 6am, if guests are expected to arrive at 6pm. But, look at it this way, you can recount the extra effort and gain the admiration of those of your guests who are easily impressed. Think positive.
Now have a look at the onion paste. Drain again.
To the onion paste add the pickle paste making an onion pickle paste. Now stuff it. I mean, stuff this mixture into each incision of each okra. When done, sigh under your breath and wonder why you ever started this.
Heat oil in a pan, kadhai. Let it heat up nice and hot.
To the oil, add the okra. Let fry a bit. Then add salt, garam masala in turmeric. Sometimes to make things exciting I switch the order in which I add the salt and spices. You can too. Be adventurous.
Now use the khunti, and gently, turn over. The bhindi! Not you!
Turn the heat way, way down. Let it simmer gently. Turn sparingly. Occasionally.
Serve with parathas, my preference, or any Indian bread of your choice. Sprinkling with fresh coriander leaves is superfluous. Besides, you just spent about 3 hours painstakingly slitting and stuffing. Forget the coriander.
If you let me know in advance, I will fly out for the taste test. Anything, for a friend, really. I’m very friendly and helpful that way.