It's Ok, It's Just Okra!

Okra. We don’t care what anyone else says about it, we love the stuff. Its gentle bite, the taste of green iron, the depth it lends to dishes, its beautiful shape that in cross section resembles the lotus root. Why do other people still not see its versatile, good-naturedness? Okra doesn’t want to be a fighter, he wants to be a lover and that is why he works so well with bolder flavours like tomatoes and chillies and peppers.
Fortunately, the West Indians and the Cajuns and the Middle Easterns know a thing or two about utilising this under-used and nutritious vegetable. In India, it is shredded, coated in highly seasoned gram flour and deep fried, similar to an onion bhaji or pakora.
The Cajuns have long used it as a thickener in Gumbos and Jambalaya or serve it deep fried.
Furthermore, a pickled Okra pod can be used in a Martini, thereby making an Okratini.
However, I wanted to use Okra in a slightly different way, making it the key ingredient of a dish, and not just a thickener or bolsterer to other ingredients.
I had recently seen a dish called Chicken with Okra that I just had to try: chicken thighs cooked up with tomatoes, chillies and lots of chopped Okra. The final dish is served up with boiled rice or Polenta.
It is an incredibly easy and quick supper dish to make, and with a little more tweaking, it could be a really delicious meal, instead of just a good meal. I would have omitted the chicken as I felt it was a case of overkill, and would use some chicken stock instead for a gentler flavour, more chillies wouldn’t have gone amiss and a longer simmering time to allow all the flavours to mingle.
In spite of all this, the potential is there and if you want to create something similar for dinner, or as a side dish, Okra is now readily available in UK supermarkets (albeit in the reduced bin most of the time). Here’s the recipe with my recommendations:

Chicken (optional) 2 x Thighs, working on one thigh per person
Olive Oil
170g Okra, chopped into rings
1 Tin Tomatoes,
2 Red Chillis, finely chopped (you can use more or less depending on your sensitivity)
1 Onion, finely sliced
2 Clove Garlic, finely chopped
2 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Plenty of Seasoning
If you are cooking the chicken, heat the olive oil gently in a saute pan, and brown the thighs on both sides, seasoning them well.
Add the onions, turning the heat down, and cook gently for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are softened.
Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a couple more minutes.
Pour over the tomatoes and their juice, along with half the stock, breaking them up into the pan.
Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the chopped Okra, taste for seasoning, add the remaining stock, cover and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the Okra is soft.
Remove the lid and turn the heat up to a rapid bubble, reducing and thickening the sauce somewhat.
Taste again for seasoning and serve with some plain boiled white rice.


Sara said...

I love Okra, but I can't even remember the last time I saw it in the store. Lovely dish as usual Freya!

Ulrike said...

I never eat okra, it's time to change that.

Lydia said...

I know what I don't like about okra -- it's the ooze that comes out when you stew it. Recently one of my cooking groups made gumbo, but we sauteed the okra separately until it stopped giving off that gelatinous stuff inside, and then added it to the rest of the gumbo. Delicious!

Kelly-Jane said...

I'm not so keen on okra (Lydia, you are right it's the oozy stuff that I didn't like!), but it's a pretty veggie and looks so good here.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

My Dad always cooked okra and tomatoes (with a little bacon, now turkey bacon, and onions) and I've always loved it! I think it's great stuff and way underused.
Okra pickles are so wonderful.

Joyce said...

Thanks for supporting okra. The southerners here in the states deep fry it. But I grew up in New England with a Greek rendition of this furry little veggie. And I loved it, smothered in tomato sauce with a hint of garlic and a dash of oregano. The perfect accompaniment to lamb and rice.

Kathryn said...

That dish looks really good! When you said you'd have left out the chicken, do you mean it'd have been just okra and tomatoes?
You are the champion of the underused or despised ingredient. It's great!

Kathryn x

Callipygia said...

You are so right about okra- it is wonderful and other cultures do it justice. Sometimes it does seem so gelatinous, other times it just thickens...what gives?

Morven said...

That does look good. The only time I've eaten okra has been in the US. I love it with tomatoes - a great combination.

valentinA said...

This way of cooking okra is great! i tend to avoid okra because of its slightly 'slimy' texture:) I usually just pop them in the oven with some garlic. Thanks for sharing this recipe Freya!

Shaun said...

Freya and Paul - I have only ever had okra once (an Egyptian recipe), and I loved it. I just keep forgetting about it. I sauteed okra with onion, covered it with water and let it simmer for 20 mins before adding garlic and corriander...It wasn't slimey at all - perhaps this has something to do with lopping off both ends? I should try it again. Your meal looks wonderful. You certainly know how to highlight an ingredient.

Lis said...

I've only had it once and yep.. I got the slime. Haven't gone back since, unfortunately.

So with that said, and it's true, I probably won't go back for another visit - it's wonderful that you are blogging about an under used vegetable - there are so many out there that people forget and they don't know what they are missing!


Susan said...

Okra gets a bad rap. I love it. I cook it mostly in Mexican dishes, but I like it with Indian spices as well. I'm so glad to find more okra lovers!

Kristen said...

I love Okra, but my kids who eat almost any veggie won't touch it for some reason. Maybe if I made it in something that looked this good they'd change their minds!

Cheryl said...

I have never had okra, but I will eat anything over rice. Love rice. Think I may have to try this.

Sig said...

Hi Paul and Freya, Thanks for dropping by my blog and leading me here, what a wonderful blog you have! I love all the recipes and pictures...
Chicken with Okra sounds delicious, love okra in any form... And Okratini, I've never heard of it, thought you guys were kidding, had to google it to believe it :-).

ros said...

Goon has an okra problem too. I just don't get it. I love the stuff and I frequently use it for side dishes when I make curry.

I for one am glad that not too many people like okra. It ay start out in the bargain bin but it finds its way into my shopping basket very quickly after that.

Asha said...

Hi Freya,we Indians LOVE Bhindi!;D

Dish looks fabulous.I will try with chicken.
Personally, I always chop Okra and fry in 2 tsp oil in a non-stick pan until the slime goes and you get crisp tender Okra to add to the dishes in the last 2 mins.I don't like slimy Okras.

ParisBreakfasts said...

I don't like OKRA :P
It's right up there with Les pates de fruits in my s.... list.
Oh and cow's eyes.
But I do adore that picture of the doggie at the table.
I could write a sonnet to that doggie!

tigerfish said...

I like your okra story...LOL!
And this recipe is so simple. I do enjoy okra too, and I guess I have to cook it this way(where the "slime" is supposed to "thicken" the gravy in a goulash). I cooked them in a stir-fry once, and the "slime" was just making the frying so unenjoyable.
Thks for droppin' by my blog :D

Toni said...

My problem with okra has been the texture. But then again, I've had it in some dishes where that wasn't an issue, and then I loved it.

This recipe looks great. (Of course, anything with chili in it looks great to me!) I think Lydia's idea of cooking the okra separately until all the "slime" (my term) is cooked out would be my approach. But all the ingredients here are wonderful!

Chubbypanda said...

Your stew looks delicious. I like to stir-fry my okra with a little bit of sausage. There are two tricks to frying okra so that it doesn't get gummy.

The first is to use a sharp knife when cutting up the okra, so as to avoid crushing the flesh. The sharper the knife, the less goo that's released.

The second is to use a very hot pan or wok. Very hot. I use an outdoor wok burner that can produce up to 50,000 BTUs, although I've been able to get close to the same results using an indoor electric stove. The heat sears the outside of the okra slices and prevents any more goo from being released.

The Chinese have been eating okra for centuries. The okra you get from stir-frying is practically goo free.

Peabody said...

My husband being from the South loves the stuff. I can't get past the oozy middle.

annauk said...

I love okra, it must be one of those love or hate things like marmite! :-)

My Mum always used to cook a very similar Cypriot dish when I was small (minus the chillis)

Having said that, none of my kids will eat okra, so hubby and I eat twice.

sher said...

I'm from the South and most people eat it all the time there. For people who can't tolerate the slimey stuff, fried okra is usually a big hit. It's really not fried, just sauteed in a pan with a little oil, after being dredged in cornmeal. Okra adds a fabulous flavor to cooked beans--and your recipe look wonderful!