Thursday, 19 February 2015

Into the Fire!

Okra Croccante al Forno con Farina di Ceci & Spezie Indiani
Crispy-Baked Okra with Indian-Spiced Gram Flour Crust


Oh no- I don't like okra! That's what a lot of people say. Swiftly followed by "ewww!- it's all slimy and sticky! Right?". Well, I am sorry to say that no- it isn't! Or, it doesn't have to be!

Most people may be traumatized by memories of having tasted badly cooked okra- overcooked, mashed together and then yes- indeed slimy and not at all nice! There are only a few dishes where okra really comes into its own when it is really well cooked in that way- gumbo for example is wonderful beyond words!

But back to the OTHER dishes with okra- where it is not slimy at all... or this dish in particular where it transforms into a crispy and chewy snack! Have you tried it this way before?

This is based on a number of traditional Indian "stuffed" okra recipes- and indeed, the filling is made in a similar way. But in my version, there was but a tablespoon of oil involved in the whole dish, no frying, no extra fat... and a wonderful result at the same time! A spicy, unusual and healthy snack... oh yeah! I know that's what you want too! I'm right about that, aren't I? Go ahead- admit it!


So- plainly you are going to need some okra for this- and the other essential ingredients are gram flour, ginger, a little onion (I used a Spring onion in this case) and cilantro. Then come the spices- which basically you can decide for yourselves- depending on how hot and spicy, plain or exotic you prefer... or, probably more realistically... depending what you happen to have at home!
I combined turmeric, Chaat masala, Garam masala and tandoori spice, with a little cayenne to flavor mine- and let me just say... it would not be a bad decision to do the same- haha!


I love that the gram flour (chick pea flour), transforms the spices into a great spice paste... which then in turn becomes a crispy crust- all without the aid of fat and frying! You can be blasé about the amount of fat in your food- but seriously... even if you think frying may be the traditional or "the tastiest" method to cook your food- the alternative may well be just as good or even better- you will never know if you don't try!


See that crispiness? Imagine that flavor? I'm sure you can! Now picture this plate of snacks next to your gin and tonic- haha! These are SO perfect to nibble with drinks! Which makes them a great idea for your next dinner party!


To make the filling, finely chop some onion, ginger and the stalks of the cilantro, the juice of half a lemon and a good pinch of salt and pop them into your mortar and pestle. I had just a teaspoon of each to fill my 300g of okra.

If you want to make a larger amount, I suppose you could use some kind of gadget if you insist... but really, the mortar and pestle is the best way to do it.


Make sure that the ginger is well crushed and grind everything together so that you have all of those lovely juices developing.


Next, add the spices- a teaspoon each of Chaat masala, Garam masala and turmeric- and 3-4 tablespoons of gram flour.


I then added 1 tablespoon of tandoori spice and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and blended everything together into a thick paste.


Finally, I added water, just a trickle at a time, until the paste smoothed out and softened to a much smoother consistency... and then turned on my oven at full power- and got ready to prepare my okra!

I did add a pinch of cayenne at this point, just to give it an extra blast of heat... but as i said- feel free to use the spices you prefer.


I simply topped and tailed the okra, but rather than simply cutting a slit into it, decided to cut it into halves instead- so that it would cook more quickly basically!


Ok- it DOES take a while to spoon a little paste onto each half of okra and smooth it out- but come on! It's not really hard work! And you can sip on your gin and tonic whilst you are doing it... hic!


Bake at 200°C with the paste side facing upwards for 10 minutes, until it becomes dry to the touch.


Then flip the okra over and bake from the green side for 15 minutes, until it cooks through and dries out- then turn it over again and give it a final 5 minutes under the broiler until it becomes nicely toasted and good to go!


I scattered a little lemon zest over mine and a few leaves of cilantro- which I find to be delicious as well as decorative- but again- that was just me being fussy and is not something you have to do.

 In fact... the only thing you have to do is to give them a try... and to enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment