Okra in tomato sauce is a great little dish to master especially if you are starting out learning to cook. It was one of the first dishes I made when i left home and I still make it to this day exactly the same way.
Can I make Bamia b'zeit with frozen okra?
The wonderful thing about this dish is that you can make it from frozen and store cupboard ingredients. The best seasonal okra can be found in September but I feel it tastes almost as good when you use frozen as it's a stew and doesn't demand the same level of freshness.
What about the tomatoes?
My recipe uses fresh tomatoes which give the best flavour. If your tomatoes are not that tomatoey then add a spoon of tomato concentrate and some water which will enhance the flavour.
You can also use canned chopped tomatoes when out of season and this is perfectly fine. Canned tomatoes are some of the best preserved vegetables and all the best chefs and home cooks rely on them.
Which type of okra should I use?
Any really. There are lots of different types of okra such as the long lady finger types or the small button ones, so you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly to cater for this. I like baby okra as it is slightly sweeter and it's not too hard to find either.
Can I make bamia with meat?
Yes you can also make a meat version of this by adding little pieces of fillet lamb or beef which you have sautéed beforehand so as not to get a boiled taste, and cook along with the sauce for half an hour or so. The extra ingredient you will need is fresh cilantro (coriander) and it is usually served with rice.
What spices do I add?
Black pepper is the only ground spice you will need. I have also added a dash of pomegranate molasses at the end and a hint of chilli which I feel really elevates it. Try it with and without the pomegranate molasses and you will see the difference it makes.
Any other tips?
When making any stew, you must try and cook out the onion properly and not rush this phase. Lots of people don't take their time over the onions as they don't conisder it to be a main part of the dish but this is your flavour base so if you have time sauté the onions on low heat until carmelised which gives it the delicious factor people can't figure out.
Also, be careful not to burn the garlic. When you add the chopped garlic cloves, lower the heat and after a minute or two add the okra.
Is bamia b'zeit healthy?
Okra is a highly nutritious food full of fibre and folates, especially good for pregnant women. Okra is also good at helping your body regulate blood sugar levels and has anti-cancer properties.
Even though this dish seems to use a lot of olive oil, it is still a healthy alternative to fried or processed foods. Olive oil is rich in good fats and antioxidants which can help in the fight against strokes and heart disease. It has been part of the Mediterranean diet for centuries and this is one of the best ways to prepare vegetables in.
How do I serve Bamia b'zeit?
As with many Lebanese dishes, this dish is usually served with fresh warm flatbreads although it can also be eaten with rice. Stews such as these taste even better the next day and can even be eaten cold on a warm summer's day.
Vegan Okra In Tomato Sauce (Bamia b'zeit)
Okra stewed in a rich tomato sauce
- large onion sliced into thin strips
- 2-3 garlic cloves chopped
- Regular olive oil
- Okra fresh or frozen bag approx 300g
- 3 large tomatoes chopped or 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Approx 1 full tsp salt
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1/2 green chilli finely chopped (optional)
Remove the okra from the freezer to defrost if using frozen. Wash the okra and drain
Slice the onion into thin strips and sauté in some regular olive oil until golden, on medium heat
Add the chopped garlic and sauté for another few minutes on low heat
Add the okra and a few good drizzles of regular olive oil (approx 4-5 tbsp) and turn up the heat to medium high
Sauté the okra in the onion garlic mix for around ten minutes until it is half cooked and vibrant green
Add the chopped tomatoes along with the salt and pepper and simmer for around 30-40 minutes
Five minutes before you turn off the heat ad the pomegranate molasses and optional chilli
Taste and adjust the salt if necessary
Serve with warm flat breads
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