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Sri Lankan curried ladies fingers (okra)

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Okra is one of those vegetables that folks either love or hate. Growing up in India, it was part of our daily cuisine, so we all love it at home.

I also try, as much as possible, to cook from fresh vegetables. Okra is one of those that is available all year round, but the quality of them varies from small and tender to woody and mature. I recently discovered these very tender baby okra frozen. I was initially sceptical, but decided to try them as recommended by Ottolenghi. I am now instantly in love with these tiny, tender okra!

This is a delicate curry with mild flavors that allow the okra and roasted curry powder to shine. Unlike other curries, these roasted okra are not slimy but add a great texture to the curry. If you cannot find these specific baby okra, it is fine to follow the recipe with regular okra. I also roast the okra in the oven, this is much healthier than frying them and the result is just as good.

This is an amazing cookbook, so much so that I rarely now go to the other Sri Lankan cookbooks on my shelf. It is an absolutely gorgeous cookbook, from which I have cooked at least half the recipes, every one spectacular. I believe what makes this book special is the attention to detail, including recipes for every spice blend, The Roasted curry powder in this recipe, allows this dish to shine.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


For the curry: 10 oz okra, if large, cut into 1 inch pieces keeping the base and stem

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder Salt

Oil spray

1 green chilli, cut into circles

1 small onion, minced

10 curry leaves

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek (methi) seeds

1 tablespoon malt vinegar

1 can 13.5 fl oz coconut milk Salt to taste

1 teaspoon Roasted curry powder (recipe below)

For the Roasted curry powder:

1 1/4 oz coriander seeds

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 cinnamon stick

5 cloves

1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds

1 dried red chilli (optional)

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 teaspoons rice

4 curry leaves

Simple coconut-pandanus rice:

2 cups rice, Basmati or any long grain variety

Appropriate amount of coconut water, not coconut milk

5-6 2 inch pieces of pandanus leaf

Simple coconut-pandanus rice:

Mix the rice, coconut water, rice and pandanus leaves and cook like you would any rice, I use a rice cooker. If using another method, though I cannot imagine why you would, do not stir the rice towards the last 5 minutes. The bottom of the rice will caramelize lightly due to the sugars in the coconut water. Fluff and set aside.

For the Roasted curry powder:

Dry roast each of of the ingredients individually lightly on a warm stove. take care not to burn any of them. When cooled crush in a coffee mill or spice grinder to a fine powder. Can be stored in an air-tight container for as long as it lasts and does not get slate.

For the curry: Lay the okra in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and the turmeric powder. Spray liberally with oil. Broil in the oven for about 10-12 minutes till the okra are slightly browned and cooked through. Toss the okra about halfway through broiling. Set aside.

Combine the rest of the ingredients except the okra and Roasted curry powder, in a pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes till the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust for salt, remember the okra has a lot of salt on it too, and spices. Adjust as needed.

Add in the roasted okra and mix in gently taking care not to rip apart the tender pieces. Serve in a bowl sprinkling the Roasted curry powder on top at the last minute.

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