Okra is a very common vegetable in India. The crop originated in ancient Abyssinia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan and was carried by Muslim traders to North Africa and the Middle East. It spread rapidly as a favoured vegetable around the world and is seen in most African and Asian cuisines, as well as in the Southern United States where it was brought by the slaves.
This okra is given a modern twist in its presentation, but the recipe is traditional. The spice mix and curry are bold with lots of ingredients that make it complex. The okra is left whole and not diced as in the original recipe. The curry is also thickened a bit to make a base with stronger flavours and the okra is lined on top. This is a lovely curry, it pops on the palate and is delicious.
This little cookbook that I picked up in Cochin many years ago is one of my favourites for Kerala cuisine. The recipes are packed in, this is not a glossy picture recipe book, but it makes up with its depth of wonderful and authentic recipes. It is also so cheap, you cannot resist but buy it, if you can find it after all these years. You will definitely see me publish from here more, as I have cooked a large part of this book over the decades.
For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.
For the spice mix:
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon onions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
15 curry leaves
1 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 cup water
For the curry:
2 tablespoons oil
1-inch cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods
1 onion, finely chopped
3-5 green chillies, sliced
1 1/2-2 teaspoons tamarind paste
3 cups water
Salt, to taste
1 lb baby okra, wiped clean
Add all the ingredients to a small blender and purèe till very smooth. Set aside.
heat the oil in a pot and add the whole spices, cinnamon, cloves, and green cardamom. sautè for 1 minute till the oil is aromatic and add the onions and green chillies. Fry till the onions are browned.
Add the spice mix and fry till the liquids have evaporated and the oil floats to the surface of the sauce, about 7-10 minutes.
Add the water, salt and tamarind and mix in well. Taste for tartness and adjust as needed. Add the okra whole and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and close the pot with a lid. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes stirring the pot occasionally to make sure the spices are not sticking to the bottom and burning, till the okra is soft and tender. The cooking time will depend on how tender the okra is. The oils should begin to pool on the surface. The curry should be thick and cling to the okra.
To serve, remove the tender okra and layer the curry on the bottom of a shallow bowl. Arrange the okra on to. garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.