This dish is an Armenian classic, one that brings sweetness through fruits into a dish with the softness of long-cooked okra. This recipe is a straightforward version of the dish – some recipes add tamarind and spices, but this one is quite an easy dish to cook while retaining the beautiful flavours of the cuisine. Tartness is added to the dish with lemons and tomato puree.
The okra are first sautéed and then cooked in the tomato puree with the apricots and lemon, for 40 mins or so, until meltingly soft. You will love it.
And try our Sweet Apricot Salad with Orange and Thyme.
Bamiya | Okra with Apricots and Lemon
450 g fresh okra – small ones if you can find them
1 lemon, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
0.5 cup pureed tomatoes, or 0.25 cup home made tomato puree, or 2 Tblspns store-bought tinned or bottled tomato puree
12 dried half-apricots, cut in half again
sea salt and black pepper to taste
0.5 tspn dried basil or dried mint
Sometimes the dried apricots from Middle Eastern groceries can be rock-hard. If this is the case, soak the dried apricots in a little water for an hour or so.
Wash the okra and pat each one dry. Trim the top of each okra into a cone shape by trimming a little off the top and then, with the knife on a slant, trim around the top. Don’t cut into the body of the okra.
Place the okra in a bowl and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the okra and shake well to distribute the juice. This minimises the stickiness of the okra once cooked.
Slice the rest of the lemon into thin slices.
Put your pureed tomatoes or tomato puree into a 1-cup measuring jar, and add enough warm water to make up to 1 cup.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or heavy wok (like an Indian kadhai-shaped wok). Add the onion and fry until soft and just turning golden.
Add the okra and sauté for a few minutes until bright green. Add the tomato puree or pureed tomato and the lemon slices. Cover the pan and simmer very gently without stirring for 20 mins. If absolutely necessary, stir very gently.
Stir in the apricots, salt and pepper, and dried basil or mint, and cook uncovered for another 15 or more minutes until he apricots are tender and the sauce has thickened and glazes the okra.
Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes. Serve with a pilaf of your choice. This Rice and Orzo Pilaf is a good accompaniment. This time I cooked that recipe, replacing the rice with vermicelli.