All through the Mediterranean, okra is cooked in a thick tomato sauce, and in Greece they are also liberal with the olive oil. Its a delicious dish that can be eaten as part of a table laden with Mediterranean vegetable dishes, or serve with fresh crusty break and feta. It also goes so well with rice, burghul, polenta, quinoa or any grain pilaf.
Vinegar helps to reduce the sliminess of the okra, and there are various ways of using it. Some sprinkle it on the okra and leave to rest for an hour (or don’t rest it), others soak in acidulated water from 1 – 12 hours. Take you pick – I soaked these for some hours as I was pottering around the kitchen doing other things. When I was ready, they were drained, rinsed and used in the dish.
This recipe is versatile – the tomato base can be adjusted to suit the availability of ingredients in your kitchen. I will often use frozen tomato pastes, purees, sauces or braises from the freezer for this dish. Today’s frozen tomato base included onion and parsley in a rustic braise.
Bamies Laderes | Rustic Greek Okra in Tomatoes and Olive Oil
3 large, ripe tomatoes, grated, or peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
500g okra, stems trimmed
0.25 cup olive oil
1 cup water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
to soak the okra
vinegar plus extra water
Trim the tops of the okra, wash well, and soak in just enough water with a good dash of vinegar for at least one hour. Rinse well and drain.
Put some of the olive oil in a pot and sauté the onions and okra until the onions are translucent.
Add the tomatoes, the remainder of the olive oil, the salt, pepper and a little water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for around 30 mins until the okra is tender and the water has evaporated. Resist stirring, otherwise the okra will disintegrate.
Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Add a bay leaf or two. A cinnamon stick is also good.
If your tomatoes are not the best quality, add a pinch of sugar with them.
Add 1 or 2 Tbspn Harissa with the tomatoes. When I add harissa, I also like a little Middle Eastern sweetness with it – a few sultanas added to the sauce, for example, give little pops of sweetness. Or I might make rice with some Dried Mango Vathal.
I will often use home made tomato pastes, purees, sauces or braises from the freezer in place of the tomatoes for this dish.