The Great Festive Okra Recipe


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:

Ingredients

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.

Equipment

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.

Method

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

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.

Copyright as shown. I didn’t have pics of my own and time is of the essence. This is sort of what it will look like when done.
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The First Irregular SloWord Awards


SW-Number 1 scaledThis is the first ever award I’ve ever handed out. It goes out to the reader who has left the most comments on this here blog, SloWord, since it’s birth 3 years ago.

This soon to be prestigious award will be handed out at random intervals, but always based on solid data.

Our winner, ladies and gentlemen, <dramatic pause followed by dramatic rustling of dummy envelope> of the First Ever #1 Commenter on SloWord Award is, The Lady of The Cakes! <applause or deafening silence>

Despite our differences of opinion on the subject of cats, she is perfectly sound on OKRA and for those who know me, OKRA trumps everything. I mean I’m taking shots to cure me of my cat allergy, but an OKRA fix is an OKRA fix.

So, The Lady of The Cakes, please feel free to download this image that you see up there and I hope you will display this with some pride and loads of amusement. Remember, you’re the first one to win this award. No one can take that away from you. When it becomes, if, if, it becomes famous and prestigious you will be able to boast reminisce about this as you sip your prune juice while seated in your comfortable rocking chair.

Here is a picture of a cat and some OKRA. We must have balance….

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OKRA


We chatted long and hard amongst ourselves about this 100th post. As a landmark post of sorts, there was considerable debate about the following:

1. Who should write it?

The Slo-Man is the eldest blogger so he should, said one school of thought. The LastWord is on a roll and has many stories he’s been promising to tell, so maybe he should be the one to recount his account of his international business trip without any ID. The PeevedPunjabi has been sick recently and letting him write something would have seen a diatribe of epic proportions so he was an early loser in this discussion. LeggieLefty has been following with avid interest the shenanigans in the cricket world. Earth shattering events have seen him sitting there with his tongue hanging out, drooling at the prospects.

Ultimately, the responsibility for this momentous post fell upon the Slo-Man in deference to his senior blogger status.

2. Content.

What should this post contain? Politics? The weird news from Yahoo? Justin Bieber? Diplomatic posturing between India and the US? The Sochi Olympics? Mayor Rob Ford? The discussion was much shorter this time. The choice was unanimous. This post is about Okra.

The Slo-Man realizes that this may be met with sIMG_0518corn. The humble green vegetable is much despised for it’s tendency to become slimy. However, as much as some people dislike it, the Slo-Man is famously fond of Abelmoschus Esculentus, okra, bhindi, ladies fingers, dherosh. His extended family is well aware of this and he is assured of at least one meal, either on the first day or the last day of his visit, that includes okra as the main course. For that piece of love and affection the Slo-Man gives thanks and hopes that this post serves to re-inforce the message. Give him okra at least once per visit and he will remember you always.

The Slo-Man knows of a young Bengali bride, newly arrived in the home of her Punjabi husband’s family who was entrusted with the task of organizing lunch while the rest of the family went shopping. The pretty young thing was left to her own devices and a bag of okra to be cooked. She cut the okra into thin slices and then proceeded to wash the cut okra as she had seen other vegetables being so treated. When she put the okra in the pan to fry it, she was left with a sticky, coagulated mass. Panic stricken, she called her mother. Her mother explained that in the case of bhindi you wash and dry before cutting. In short order the mother arranged for one of her servants to buy fresh bhindi and send it over to the newly-wed and inexperienced chef. The returning family never got to know about the narrowly averted culinary catastrophe. The Slo-Man knows this to be a true story for he knows the bride involved very well and she related the story to him personally.

Bhindi, okra, ladies fingers or whatever you choose to call it can be cooked many ways. In gumbo, the gumbo is the okra. You can eat it fried on it’s own, either cut into slim rings or whole, with or without onions and spices. You can slit whole okra and stuff it with a spicy mixture of your choice, such as shredded onions and masala from Indian pickles. You can fry it crisp. You can fry it crisp with spices and add it to yogurt. You can even bread it and deep fry it.

Anyway you eat it, okra is delicious and it is good for you. The Slo-Man points you to Wikipedia – “Okra is a popular health food due to its high fiber, vitamin C, and folate content. Okra is also known for being high in antioxidants. Okra is also a good source of calcium and potassium.[8]

Finally, at the insistence of The LastWord, here is a very simple recipe for Bhindi masala.

Ingredients

Okra, bhindi or whatever you call it, Onions, Salt, Turmeric, Chilli powder, Cumin powder, Coriander powder, Garam masala and oil for frying. The Slo-Man feels that readers must be responsible for their own taste buds and therefore carefully refrains from providing any measurements. (The LastWord applauds).

Preparation

Wash and dry the okra first. If using frozen okra DO NOT wash! Cut into slim rings. Chop onions. Heat oil and add onions, saute for a couple of minutes and add okra. Fry for a bit then add all the spices and turn the heat down real low. Stir once or twice in the next twenty minutes. Serve with rotis, parathas, naans etc.IMG_0520

As you eat, remember, the last 4 digits of the Slo-Man’s cell phone number spell OKRA.