Masala Bhindi (Spiced Okra)
Do you like okra? I do not but people around me do so when I made this recipe it was for my nearest and dearest for have a serious love for the vegetable. Okra are also known as ladyfingers and bhindi in Indian and is a very popular curry all across India.
I would say this recipe of mine is more a Punjabi style semi-dry version of the curry but there are as you can imagine many more varieties and textures available. It is a flavoursome dish and was a hit from the first bite.
When my husband orders at restaurants, I know it will be one of two things; okra or aubergine. He loves bhindi and always looks for a new type of dish to try. Over the years, I did not cook it often but as I came to realise it was one of his favourites, I began searching for new and innovative ways to produce it rather than stick to the wearisome dry sauté, sabji, stir-fry, stew and stuffed bhindi style recipes.
Since I have started cooking it and it’s been a hit with him, I always, always have okra in the refrigerator. Okra are one of the first vegetables that I pick up at every visit to the farmer’s market. My choice of bhindi is to select tender and slender looking ones without any blemishes. I decided on making this Punjabi style masala bhindi to go with rotlis. Seriously, he felt this recipe was a genuine celebration of bhindi. A flavour packed bhindi dish where the spices bring out the sweetness of the okra while the tomatoes and amchur powder add the slight tangy touch needed in this dish.
I have found that a majority of recipes available call for the bhindi to be shallow fried or kept in oil prior to cooking them. While I understand that this is to prevent the sticky and sliminess in the dish, I really do not think it is necessary. What I did do was wash my bhindi prior to chopping them and used yogurt as an ingredient.
I have found that bhindi does not require high heat levels or very much time to cook. High heat and overcooking them can make them lose their shape and become mushy as well as lose vital nutrients. Do not allow the bhindi to become mushy, they should hold their shape and yet remain soft to the bite.
Let me know what you think of the taste!
Masala Bhindi (Spiced Okra)
250g fresh tender okra
1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
3 medium tomatoes
2 small onions
3 cloves of garlic
1 heaped teaspoon minced ginger
2 green chillies
1 ½ tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon asafoetida
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin and coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon amchur powder
salt to taste
Fresh coriander to garnish
- Wash the tender okra in cold water and pat dry, and then allow them to dry completely for half an hour on a cloth. This is to allow the okra to be completely dry and free of water to prevent the okra from becoming slimly.
- While they dry, finely chop the onions, tomatoes, chillies, mince the garlic and ginger. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, lightly whisk the yogurt so it is smooth, lump free and runny and add about ½ teaspoon of the chopped chillies and mix. Set aside.
- Once the okra is completely dry, chop them into 1-2 inch cubes.
- Next, add the oil to a hat pan and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida. Allow this mixture to become aromatic but not burn.
- Now add the finely chopped onions, chillies, minced garlic and ginger. Sauté this mixture at a medium heat until light brown in colour, be careful not to burn it as the flavour will be spoilt.
- Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they begin to pulp.
- Now add the spices; turmeric, cumin and coriander, garam masala and amchur powder. Mix and combine well and cook covered at a low medium heat. Ensure again that the sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pan or burn, as this will ruin the entire flavour of the dish. The tomatoes should reduce and be very mushy and soft and oil should leave the sides, this is when you are ready for the next step.
- Now add the okra and gently combine with the sauce. Cook at a low medium heat for 10 minutes until the okra are tender. When you stir the okra at this stage, you may see some slime coming from the okra. This is nothing to worry about, as it is a natural process in cooking okra just prior to them being cooked to the right tenderness.
- Now add the chilli yogurt to the okra and mix gently to prevent the yogurt from curdling. The slime from the okra should now have disappeared and the okra should be soft yet hold their distinct shape.
- Turn down the heat to low and cook the okra for a further 5 minutes then turn off the heat. Allow the okra to sit for a few minutes before garnishing and serving.
- Serve with rotli, naan or rice.