The colder winter months require comforting stews and this okra and meat dish delivers!
In the winter months when I make lots of stews for my family I like to cook my meat and chicken in batches when I know what I am cooking for the week. It really helps to have the protein and broth ready, cutting down on the cooking time, so I can have home cooked meals on the table super fast on weekdays.
Although I am not typically a huge fan of okra, except when it is breaded and fried the southern way in the US, even I crave the comfort of this tomato-based hug in a bowl. The secret to not having really soft and slimy okra is to buy the really small ones, usually found in Middle Eastern shops in the frozen section. They are usually called "okra zero" which indicates the small size. Flash frying the okra also ensures that it stays intact when it is cooked in the stew. You could also use fresh okra, but I rarely find small fresh okra.
Once you have your meat and okra prepared, the stew comes together really quickly. Using some of the frying oil from the okra means you'll get the okra flavour and you'll cut down on waste! Once all of your ingredients are in the stew, let it cook until it reaches the thickness you like. The amount of garlic and spice in this stew depends on personal taste, so feel free to tweak it to your liking.
The way I like to serve any tomato based stew is with a generous squeeze of lemon and some shatta or Middle Eastern chilli paste, but hot sauce or fresh chillies are also an option! Serve with vermicelli rice or bread and enjoy!
- 500g boneless or bone-in meat chunks (beef or lamb)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 5 cardamom pods
- 10 black peppercorns
- 400g okra (frozen)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 500g passata
- 1-1½ cups reserved meat broth
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp garlic paste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Start by cooking the meat. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and brown the meat until it is a nice mahogany colour. Add in the spices, onion and garlic and then top off with enough water, reaching a few inches over the meat.
- Once the water comes to the boil, you will notice the impurities rising to the top. Make sure you skim all of this off. Let the water come to the boil two or three times, until no more white foam is produced, then lower the heat, cover, and let simmer for 1-2 hours, depending on how big the pieces of meat are. Check regularly and add water often, making sure the water always covers the meat.
- While the meat cooks, fry the okra. Fry until slightly browned and place on a paper towel to drain. Set aside.
- Once the meat is cooked, drain, reserving the broth and the meat. Set aside.
- In a large pot, add a tablespoon of the oil used to fry the okra. Fry the 2 crushed cloves of garlic and add the passata. Add about a cup of meat broth. I like to clean out the passata jar with it to make sure I've made use of it all.
- Add the okra, meat, lemon juice and spices and let simmer on medium-low heat until the okra is tender and the stew has reached the desired thickness.
- To add the garlic topping, place the garlic paste in a small frying pan with some olive oil. Cook the garlic until it is just brown and pour over the stew.
- Serve with vermicelli rice or with a side of bread and enjoy with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of spice!