If you had ever given me okra to try as a child, I would have flat out refused it. Okra would have been ranked in the same category as zucchini and eggplant, two things I found extremely unappetizing when I was younger but now as an adult, absolutely adore (especially the latter). But if you’ve never seen okra before (and weren’t a child of the Deep South here in the United States), you can understand why it would be unappealing to the child demographic. Okra is hairy (it’s an herbaceous hairy plant) and for the child with a colorful imagination, it somewhat resembles a witch’s fingers. Thankfully once cooked, okra is quite tasty.
Ever since I started (slowly) cooking my way through Naomi Duguid’s Taste of Persia cookbook, I’ve developed an affinity for Persian food (well, more so). Duguid’s cookbooks are wonderful but some of the recipes are on the time-consuming side. That’s why I was so happy to stumble across Shadi HasanzadeNemati’s beautiful new cookbook, The Enchantingly Easy Persian Cookbook. I had a hard time choosing what to try first since everything appealed to me but ultimately surprised myself, slightly, by selecting the Okra Stew.
Although a stew, it wasn’t so rich and hearty that it seemed out of place served on a May evening, which is when I did. Yes, there is time involved in the cooking stage but the actual prep, the time spent on one’s feet cooking, was truly minimal. And if you’re making this for just two people, you’ll have a great amount of leftovers too!
If you’ve never had okra before, I will say it’s somewhat of an acquired taste. Obviously if you’re eating okra in a fried state for the first time, you’ll probably prefer it more that way. But take a culinary leap with me and trust me, it’s good, especially on the nutritional front!
Persian Okra Stew (Khoresh-E-Bamieh)
Recipe courtesy of The Enchantingly Easy Persian Cookbook by Shadi HasanzadeNemati
PREP: 10 MINUTES
COOK: 1 HOUR, 35 MINUTES
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 ounces beef loin, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 1/2 cups water
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 ounces fresh okra, rinsed and stemmed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chelo for serving (this is Persian style white rice; if you’re like me, plain white rice will have to do)
1.) Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and saute until it’s golden brown, about 10 minutes. Mix in the turmeric, then add the beef and cook until it is light brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes.
2.) Pour in the water, increase the heat to high, and bring the liquid to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot, and let the stew cook until the beef is completely tender, about 50 minutes.
3.) When the beef is tender, add the garlic to the pot, cover, and cook for another 10 minutes.
4.) Add the okra and tomato paste and stir until the tomato paste is dissolved in the stew. Cover and cook the stew for 20 minutes more, until the okra is tender but not falling apart.
5.) Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Taste the stew and add more salt, if needed.
6.) Serve hot with rice.
Cook’s tip: Be careful to remove only the stems from the okra-do not cut off the whole tops. If you cut off too much of these little vegetables, the seeds will escape from the pods and make the stew slimy.