Roast Okra With Spicy Tomatoes. When cooked just right, the plump, tender seed pods of the okra plant are my idea of food heaven. Their flavour is somewhere between asparagus and aubergine and their soft texture is perfect for squashing between warm flatbreads. To avoid any unwanted gloopiness – which has, regrettably, unfairly come to tarnish this handsome fruit’s reputation – be sure not to trim the stalks too close to the head, so they remained sealed. And yes, even though we refer to it and use it as a vegetable, technically it is a fruit.
Serves 4–6 as part of a spread
4 tablespoons light olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely sliced
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
400g can of plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil, to serve
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6.
Trim the okra by cutting off the stalks, but do so carefully by not slicing too close to the main pod: you want to keep each pod sealed so the seeds don’t spill out, as this way the okra will remain firm while cooking.
Place the okra on a large baking tray, drizzle over 2 tablespoons light olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 15–20 minutes until the okra is tender but still firm.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons light olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until it is soft.
Toast the coriander and cumin seeds by placing them in a dry pan over a low heat and stirring for a minute or so, until their aromas are released. Then crush in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and add them to the onion with the allspice, garlic and chilli flakes. Fry for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Once the okra is out of the oven, add it to the tomato sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes, splashing in a little hot water if the sauce looks a bit dry. Taste, adjust the seasoning and drizzle with a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil just before serving.
Zaitoun by Yasmin Khan is published by Bloomsbury ($45.00)