Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Slice Me! Spice Me!

Okra Croccante al Forno con Ripieno di Cocco, Farina di Ceci e Spezie Indiani
Crispy Baked Okra with Spicy Coconut & Gram Flour Sambal

Okra is one of those vegetables that people either love o hate- and sadly, I don't often hear of too much for it! But you know, it is not that poor, tender little vegetable's fault that people out there don't know how to cook it! Unless it is cooked in a gumbo, soup or casserole, there you want it to become soft and tender, you simply need to make sure to not over-cook it... it's not rocket science! It WILL become slimy is you do, it will lose its appeal, but it will all be your own fault!

So let me give you a helping hand and tell you a way to prepare okra, so that it tastes delicious, is surprisingly different, is quick and easy to make and light and healthy to boot. The only fat in this whole plateful of okra is a tablespoon of peanut butter- no oil or butter, no frying and nothing but satisfying spice, natural vegetable flavor a delicious gram flour and coconut bite to make these into totally awesome snacks, perfect for a buffet or as an appetizer and for sure a crowd-pleaser that will surprise everyone... so read on...

Obviously, other than washing and slicing the okra in half and mixing the ingredients for the sambal, there is no other prep-work involved here- which is something that I already know you like! Also, with no frying involved, there is no grease to deal with or the unpleasant side effects, like unpleasant smells- or of course all of the unnecessary calories. Nope- this is a healthy and fun nibble in every sense!

To make the sambal for about 20 okra, which of course means 40 little snacks as they are cut in half, you will need just 1 Spring onion, about an inch of fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 2 tablespoons of gram flour and 2 of coconut flakes. Those few ingredients, the spices and just a few drops of water and you are ready to do magic with a simple and rather plain vegetable that will transform it into something delicious. Which is a pretty cool thing to do!

The only real "work" in in finely chopping the onion and finely grating the ginger- the rest is just a matter of stirring. In a small bowl went the tablespoon of peanut butter and about a 3 tablespoons of water. The water is needed in order to turn the flour into a smooth paste which is the base for the sambal, so what I did was to stir it into the peanut butter to dilute it... I am sure it is much easier to do it this way than to try to mix it into the flour and spices... in any case- it worked well for me!

Once the peanut butter had been "thinned-down", I added the other ingredients and the spices, which were 1 tablespoon of Garam Masala, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of Panch Puren and the juice of half a lime. Salt and pepper are of course essential and you can add a little chili powder or cayenne to taste if you prefer it more spicy. Once you have blended it into a paste, add a little water, just a trickle at a time, until the mix has the consistency of a light yoghurt- not too thick, as you are going to need to trickle this into the okra... which is the next step before baking!

Turn on your oven and get it nice and hot, spread out a sheet of aluminum foil and lay out the okra slices with the open side facing up of course, and carefully spoon the sambal onto each slice- be generous- take a look at the photos... and don't worry as it is not as tricky as it sounds- you will see! I found the best thing to do was to place a little spoonful of paste onto the centre of each okra slice and then spread it out a little with the spoon- keep the chunkier bits at the thick end of the slices and smear the more liquid part of the paste towards the tips.

Into the hot oven they go- at 350°F for 15 minutes and 5 minutes under the broiler until they crisp-up and crust over. The gram flour sets with a nice shiny glaze and you would swear they had been fried if you didn't know better. And trust me- the flavors are so rich and pure and intense that it is a joy to not taste oil and grease in any way. The peanut butter and gram flour make them surprisingly satisfying and "filling" and I will bet with you, that even the most ardent of okra-haters will in fact love these. And if they don't... good for you and me- as we will have more to enjoy by ourselves!

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