Even Ottolenghi loves okra. His books contain a range of okra recipes, and this one comes from Plenty. It is a classic combination of okra, tomato and lemon, with the Ottolenghi twist of herbs and spices. The use of preserved lemon is genius, and he uses it also in this Salad of Charred Okra and Preserved Lemon.
In this part of the world the quality of the okra is good, whether the okra is small or large. In other parts you might find that small okra pods have a more attractive texture than large ones, which can be a bit gloopy and stringy when cooked. Check your local large okra to see whether it will work in dishes like this. Middle Eastern and Indian groceries often stock frozen okra that are tiny, with a perfect firmness, and they come with an added bonus: the okra are ready-trimmed.
Roasted Okra with Tomato, Lemon and Coriander Seeds
4 Tblspn olive oil
1.5 tspn coriander seeds
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 red peppers, cut in 1cm wide strips
1 mild red chilli, deseeded and chopped
6 Tblspn chopped flat-leaf parsley
30g fresh coriander leaves, chopped
400g chopped tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
1 tspn paprika
2 tspn caster sugar
400g okra, fresh or frozen
3 Tblspn finely chopped skin of preserved lemon
30 pitted black olives of the dry and wrinkly variety, each cut into two
1.5 Tblspn lemon juice
1 Tblspn shredded mint leaves
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Heat half the oil in a large saucepan, add the coriander seeds and onion, and sauté on medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onion softens but doesn’t colour. Add the peppers, chilli, parsley and half the fresh coriander, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, water, paprika, sugar and salt, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until the sauce is thick and lost most of the excess liquid.
Meanwhile, prepare the okra. Cut off the stalk end as close to the fruit as possible but without breaking into the main body of it so the seeds are not exposed. Mix the okra with the remaining oil and some salt, spread on an oven tray and roast for 15-20 minutes, until just tender but still firm.
Add the okra to the tomato sauce, along with the preserved lemon, olives and half the remaining coriander. Stir gently, taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve warm with steamed bulgar wheat or couscous, or at room temperature with bread and other mezze. In both cases, add lemon juice just before serving and garnish with more coriander and the mint.