The heat is definitely on as we approach the summer months. Last weekend marked the end of the season for one of Dubai’s favorite organic markets, as The Farmers’ Market On the Terrace packed up their crates and stands for the next few months.
Living in the desert, I’m always pleasantly surprised at the variety of organic produce available here in the UAE. With a high demand of locally sourced food, more and more markets are cropping up (pardon the pun), making it easier than ever to shop for organic ingredients.
We arrived at the market relatively late in the morning, and although much of the fresh produce was sold out, I still managed to come home with a basket full of beautifully fresh vegetables to carry me through the rest of the week. Thick and colorful capsicums, deep purple beetroot, and green beans so fresh they were still coated in “peach fuzz” were among the vegetables we brought home. The cherry tomatoes were sweet, succulent and extremely juicy – perfect to throw into the fresh pasta I made later that evening.
Piles of fresh okra were scattered across the market stalls, just waiting to be taken home and put on our dinner table. Often served deep-fried, okra can be an acquired taste. With its odd shape and unique texture, my youngest niece used to call it “fuzzy cucumber” – bolting her lips shut while refusing to put it in her mouth. That poor little okra didn’t stand a chance!
When we lived in Montreal, my husband’s wonderful aunt Hiam would often make this traditional Arabic dish of okra, tomatoes, coriander, and garlic (Bamia in Arabic). Hiam is a fabulous cook and puts a lot of love and care into everything she makes. This dish is by far one of my comfort foods, and with its intense aroma and coriander-infused flavor, it definitely brings back memories of home.
There is something about the stewing process that removes the sliminess usually associated with okra. You can cook them whole, or if they’re big, cut them in half or in thirds. If you can’t find fresh okra, feel free to use frozen – very small okra also work well. Keep in mind that the cooking time might differ slightly.
I use either fresh, or good quality canned tomatoes depending on what I have on hand. I have included a mix of both in this recipe – feel free to improvise with what you have.
This dish is great as a vegetarian main, or as an accompaniment to chicken, fish, or meat.
- 500 grams okra – cleaned, any hard bits of stems removed
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 small bunch coriander (about 3 tablespoons) – cleaned
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)
- 600 grams peeled chopped tomatoes and their juice
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes (about 400 grams)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- A bit of water
In a mortar and pestle, combine garlic, coriander and salt, pounding to make a rough paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, mince your garlic, and finely chop your coriander, adding salt to the mixture.
On medium heat, heat olive oil in a pot. Add the garlic/coriander mixture with the ginger. Sauté for about one minute until fragrant.
Add the okra, and cook for about 30 seconds, shaking the pan to distribute the ingredients.
Add the tomatoes (both fresh and canned), and stir gently. Add a bit of water so that the okra is almost covered (do not cover completely, some okra should be sticking out of the tomatoes).
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Uncover after 15 minutes, and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the sauce has reduced the okra is cooked through.
Serve hot or cold and dig in!