Based on the lunar calendar, from the first week of May this year billions of Muslims across the globe will be fasting from sunrise to sunset each day in observance of the Islamic month of Ramadan. It’s a festive month with little or no trace of food during daylight hours, but suddenly as the day draws to an end, families and friends gather together to break the fast with delicious sweet and savoury dishes passed down by countless generations.
I’ve pulled together some of my family favourites for each week of Ramadan.
Week 1: tangy okra
I disliked it as a child, but okra (aka ladies’ fingers) is now one of my favourite vegetables. It’s an interesting warm-season vegetable, popular in southern Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It has a peach-like fuzzy exterior and small edible seeds inside long green pods. It’s also known for its viscous juices that are ideal for thickening soups and sauces.
This was one of my mum’s recipes, and my dad still loves it on toast before starting his fast. It’s sweet, tangy, tender and easy to cook.
Prep time: 10 min
Cooking time: 25 min
- 500g okra, washed and cut into 2-cm rounds
- 3 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 medium tomato, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced finely
- ¼ tsp concentrated tamarind paste (or squeeze of lemon juice)
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- salt, to taste
- ½ large green or red chilli, sliced into long strips (optional)
- In a medium–sized saucepan, heat the oil and add the sliced onion. Cook until slightly caramelised.
- Add the fennel seed, turmeric, sliced tomato, garlic, salt and tamarind paste or lemon juice. Stir on medium heat for 4–5 min until well blended.
- Add the washed and cut okra to the onion and tomato mixture. Gently mix all ingredients together without stirring the okra too much. Leave on medium heat for 10 min.
- Add the sliced chilli, if desired, then turn down the heat and cover the saucepan for a further 10 min. Check and stir or shake the pan a few times to make sure the okra does not stick to the bottom – it should be tender when fully cooked.
- Serve with naan or rice.
- Choose slender, firm green okra.
- Store okra in the fridge drawer in a plastic or paper bag. It won’t last for more than a few days uncooked.
- Wash okra before cutting – otherwise it will get very slimy!
- Bottles or jars of tamarind paste are available at most Indian and Thai grocery stores and, if kept in the fridge or freezer, will last for ages. Alternatively, use a good squeeze of lemon juice if you can’t find it.
- Cooked okra will keep in the fridge for a week in an airtight container. Or you can freeze and defrost thoroughly before heating and serving.
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