Tasty over rice, this okra stew recipe is an easy way to get to know this unusual fruit.
Okra is a popular fruit used in southern cooking, Caribbean dishes, Indian fair and in the Middle East. However, outside these regions few people use it in their recipes. This might be because, if they are not prepared properly, okra can be slimy when you don't want it to be.
Okra are the edible green seed pods of a flowering plant in the mallow family. Some varieties, but not all, come with prickly hairs that need to be washed off. Frequently, the sliminess of okra is welcomed as a thickener in stews and gumbo, but in the case of this recipe we don't need too much of that feature.
As I mentioned earlier, okra is a fruit, though it is typically used as if it were a vegetable. To prepare it for this dish does take some preparation beginning several hours ahead of time. Because we don't need much of okra's thickening power in this stew, we will need to evaporate much of the mucilage this fruit is known for. This is also similar to what you need to do if you want to prepare fried okra. However, it is worth the effort, as okra is a nutritious addition to any diet.
TIP: If you want to give this stew a little kick, add a diced chili at the same you introduce the okra in the directions below.
TIP: To make this entirely vegan, replace the pancetta with meatless sausage. Remove any casing from the sausage and break up the "meat" into relatively small chunks.
(Makes 6 servings)
1 cup pancetta, cubed
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups baby okra, roughly chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 cup tomato paste
1, 28 fl. oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 cup rice, cooked (or quinoa)
Several hours before beginning this recipe, prepare the okra. While still whole, use a vegetable brush to scrub each okra under running water to remove any prickly hairs. When clean, dry the okra well the place into a shallow dish or pot and coat with white vinegar. Allow the okra to soak in the vinegar for half hour.
While the okra soaks, prepare a sheet pan and line it with paper towel, or tea towel. Set aside.
Drain the vinegar, rinse, then pat the okra dry again. Cut off the tops and tips, then roughly chop each okra into 2 or 3 pieces each. Lay the okra pieces out on the sheet pan and allow it to air-dry for several hours (4 to 5 hours). This works better if the sheet pan can be placed in a sunny location with good airflow.
When it's time to begin cooking, in a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the pancetta and sauté, stirring often, until the pancetta is browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a dish and set aside. Leave the pancetta-flavoured oil in the sauté pan.
Add the onion to the sauté pan and, stirring regularly, sauté until it begins to soften (about 3 minutes). Add the carrots and continue sautéing (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, then add the okra, cherry tomatoes, and the spices, then mix. Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the tomato paste and mix. Continue cooking for 3 to 4 more minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes and browned pancetta to the sauté pan and mix. Allow it to come to a simmer then reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the strew suitably thickens, stirring occasionally. If the stew is too thick, add 1/2 cup vegetable stock and stir.
Serve over rice prepared as per package instructions and enjoy.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (stew without rice):
total calories = 134 | total fat = 6.93g | saturated fat = 2.1g | cholesterol = 6.67mg | sodium = 145.38mg | net carbohydrates = 11.74g | dietary fibre = 3.65g | sugars = 7.17g | protein = 3.14g
Nutritional Information Per Serving (with long grain white rice):
total calories = 334 | total fat = 9.93g | saturated fat = 2.6g | cholesterol = 6.67mg | sodium = 295.38mg | net carbohydrates = 49.74g | dietary fibre = 5.65g | sugars = 7.17g | protein = 7.14g