Although almost all fruits and vegetables are now available any time of year, they are most desirable in their natural season. One of the vegetables I crave in summertime is okra (bámieh in Farsi). I simply boil them and have with yogurt, or sometimes with mayonnaise, or in curry, or in a Persian style stew, khoresh.
I was at the market to buy some fresh okra when I spotted these tiny okras in the frozen section. To make sure it was not a photo illusion, I asked the grocer if the okras were as small as the photo suggested and she said they were.
Also commonly called ‘lady fingers’, I always look for smaller okras, the size of my pinky, 6cm/2.5″ length, but end up with fat ones about 10cm/4″ long. I had never seen okras this small at a market and was intrigued. I never buy frozen okra but was willing to make an exception. To my surprise, these little babies did not fail me. I was planning to use fresh tomatoes for the sauce, but used tomato paste instead. However, I used some red babies to serve with these green babies.
Okra Stew • Khoresh'e Bamieh • خورش بامیه
Recipe by: Fae’s Twist & Tango (fae-magazine.com)
For the stewed meat
• 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 600 g/ 1.3 lbs stew meat, cut in 5cm/2″ x 2.5cm/1″ pieces
• 2 ~ 4 cloves garlic
• 1 bay-leaf
• 1½ cups water
Starring vegetable and for the sauce
• 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 250 g/ 8 oz onion, thinly sliced
• 400 g/ 14 oz okra, preferably fresh or frozen
• 300 ml/ 1¼ cup hot water
• 1½ Tbsp quality tomato paste
• 1 tsp hot pepper paste
• 60 ~ 80 ml/ ¼ ~ 1/3 cup verjuice
• ¼ tsp turmeric
• ½ tsp salt + 1 tsp for blanching
• pinch ground black pepper
• smidgen (1/32 tsp) ground saffron dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water
• 110 g/ 4 oz mini cherry tomatoes
For the stewed meat
◊ Add oil to a medium-sized saucepan and place it on high-heat. As soon as oil is hot, add cut onions and stirring constantly, sauté for 2 minutes. Add meat and sear all sides. Add water, garlic, bay-leaf, put the lid on and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 1½ hours, or until meat is cooked tender and soft. There should be ½ cup of liquid left. If needed, add a little water at a time not to scorch. (This may be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated or made in quantity and frozen in batches to use when needed.)
◊ In a non-stick fry-pan, heat 4 Tbsp vegetable oil on high. Add thinly sliced onion. When it starts boiling, lower heat to medium. Stirring frequently, caramelize onion, without burning. Quickly scoop out the caramelized onion and set aside.
◊ In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt and then add okra (fresh or frozen) and blanch briefly. Drain and shock in cold water to stop from cooking and to maintain the vibrant green color. When cooled, drain and set aside. (Traditionally, fresh okra is sautéed for additional flavor by caramelizing a bit.)
◊ Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 175°C/350°F.
◊ In an ovenproof dish (about 20cm square) add 1 cup hot water and dissolve tomato paste and red hot pepper paste. Add verjuice, turmeric, ½ tsp salt, pepper, dissolved saffron, 1/2 of caramelized onion, and stir.
◊ To the sauce, add cooked meat, blanched (or satéed ) okra, and spread the baby cherry tomatoes. Tightly cover with aluminium foil and bake for 1 hour.
◊ Before serving, sprinkle on the other ½ of the caramelized onion. Perfect when served with Persian rice/polo.
~ Noushe jan! • نوش جان ~
A few important points in making an outstanding Persian khoresh:
♦ Don’t skimp on oil… use as much as needed for frying/sautéing. Boiling oil also cooks and adds flavor. It can be skimmed off before serving.
♦ Brown/sear onion and meat very well.
♦ Adding 1/16 ~ 1/8 tsp of ground saffron, dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water, will substantially add to taste.
♦ Don’t use too much water for cooking, just enough to steam and condense. –Simmer on low heat for a long time. This helps flavor fusion of ingredients.
♦ Best if stew is made a day in advance and refrigerated for taste to meld.
♦ Almost all stews can be frozen. Exception: If stew includes potato(es), potato pieces to be removed before freezing.
♦ There are red  stews (using tomato paste) and green  stews (using herbs). Garnishing red stews sparingly with caramelized onion before serving not only further enhances taste but visually enhances the dish.
 Slang: ‘red’ and ‘green’ are used to specify types of stews or mixed rices, using tomato paste vs. herbs respectively. This concept also helps host/hostess plan an event menu and serve a balance of reds and greens.
This delicious sweet is also called bamieh/okra!
Could it have gotten its name from vegetable bamieh/okra? 🙂
So, what’s cooking in your kitchen?