Turkish Okra Recipes: Okra In Olive Oil (Zeytinyağlı Bamya)

If you’ve read our article about the health benefits of okra, you’ll know it was those health benefits, coupled with a Turkish dish served to us by our friend’s mum, that forced us to give okra recipes one last shot before the vegetable defeated us altogether. Of course, those of you who know us, will know we’re also a bit stubborn, too, when it comes to learning to love previously scorned foods. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower – we’re conquering them all; much of it thanks to experimenting with different Turkish recipes. And, as for okra recipes, it’s this classic Turkish way of cooking it that has made bamya (the Turkish word for okra) very palatable – nay, enjoyable!

The okra dish we were given at our Turkish friend’s house was so tasty and – most importantly – there was no evidence of the gluey mucilage (slime) that had put us both off delving into subsequent okra recipes after our previous slimy failure with an Indian dish.  We’re still on the lookout of for other non-slimy okra recipes but this Turkish one will more than suffice for now. We love it!

Turkish Okra Recipes

Keep the okra whole and don’t pierce it

In Turkish cuisine, there’s a group of dishes known as zeytinyağlı yemekleri (olive oil dishes) and our friend’s mum had done a Turkish okra recipe, using this method. These dishes are a lot lighter than they might sound – just lovely in summer – and other Turkish olive oil recipes we’ve done in the past are a borlotti bean recipe, barbunya pilaki, and also green beans cooked in olive oil. Why not add an okra recipe to the list, too?

Okra Recipes: What To Look For When Buying Okra

It’s always the case, isn’t it, when you’re buying fruit and vegetables that you’re not so familiar with? How do you know if you’re picking up decent quality stuff? We’ve picked up a few duds in our time when it comes to first time market purchases – but we’re pretty confident, these days, that, when we’re doing okra recipes, we know what we’re looking for:

  • Okra pods that are firm, not soft
  • The okra must feel like they’re going to snap, rather than bend, when you pick them up
  • No more than 5-7 cm long. If they’re longer, the okra will be tough to eat a bit tasteless

Basically, we’re looking for the youngsters. In July and August in Fethiye the fruit and vegetable markets are abundant with piles of okra and the pods are in peak condition – so this is the perfect time to experiment with okra recipes. But what about the slime we’d encountered previously and keep mentioning, now? That was what had really put us off okra in the first place! Well, there’s a slime-avoidance trick and it’s really simple…

Okra Tip: The mucilage in okra is what holds many of this vegetable’s valuable health benefits so we don’t want to get rid of it. The trick is to leave them whole. Slice their stalks off but leave their ‘lid’ on so the mucilage doesn’t seep into your meal.

Okra Recipes – Turkish Zeytinyağlı Bamya

Let’s make okra in olive oil (zeytinyağlı bamya) without getting the mucilage in our sauce.

Turkish Okra In Olive Oil - Zeytinyağlı Bamya
 
Author:
Recipe type: Olive Oil Dish
Cuisine: Turkish
Serves: 4
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
A super healthy, seasonal Turkish dish that is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans
Ingredients
  • 500g young okra
  • 2 large Turkish tomatoes finely chopped (or 1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 large onion halved and sliced into half moons
  • 1 red capsicum pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
Instructions
  1. Wash your okra.
  2. Remove the stalks, being careful not to slice too far down (see photo above) so that the mucilage is contained within the okra pods.
  3. Gently heat your olive oil in a frying pan and add the sliced onion.
  4. Saute your onion until it starts to go transparent.
  5. Now add the okra and stir gently until the olive oil has coated the pods.
  6. Add your red capsicum pepper and gently saute for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Now add the tomatoes and garlic and stir together.
  8. Sprinkle in the sugar, paprika, salt and pepper.
  9. Mix together, cover the pan and leave your Turkish okra in olive oil dish to gently simmer for around 30 minutes.
  10. Remove from the heat, leave to cool and serve at room temperature.
Notes
Cooking time depends on the size of your okra. Check after around 20 minutes and remove from the heat if the okra is cooked, otherwise it will become too soft, split at the ends and release the mucilage.

This delicious okra and tomato stew recipe is eaten around the Mediterranean and the Middle East, too. In Turkey, it is served at room temperature. If you want to make large batches and have a stash of it, it can be frozen, once cooled.

Turkish Okra Recipes, Zeytinyağlı Bamya

A perfect lunch for a summer’s day

You can serve zeytin yağlı bamya (okra in olive oil) on its own as a meal or with Turkish rice. As you can see in the photo above, we love it as a light lunch. We lightly toast some bazlama bread and then rub a clove of garlic over it. A lovely big dollop of süzme yoghurt, a couple of spoonfuls of okra in olive oil…more seasonal foodie bliss, and it’s healthy, too!

Okra recipes; the Turkish version: This Turkish okra recipe is a great way to cook okra because the goodness in the mucilage is preserved if the okra is cooked over a low heat – exactly the way it is cooked in this recipe.

We definitely rediscovered bamya through this Turkish dish and, because we also know how healthy it is, we’ll be making the most of the next few weeks of okra season. There’s something very satisfying about indulging in really tasty food whilst knowing it should be doing you some good at the same time…

This book, available on Amazon, has over 150 Turkish recipes and 800 step by step photographs…

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Comments

  1. That is exactly how the Greek tavernas on Paros served okra! I love them. Here in Montreal, in the winter, I buy the frozen baby okra, I sauté them frozen in the pan with a touch of oil, add a bit of balsamic vinegar and serve them roasted and crispy after a few minutes. If you can find baby okra, they are also delicious. Suzanne

  2. Kaya Koyu Walker says:

    When you get the Okra home from the market, soak it in fresh cold water for a couple of hours and a lot of the “slime” will come out of it. Then rinse it in running water and it’s ready to use.

    By the way, the “slime” can be kept and used as a natural thickener for soups, stews and gravies etc.

  3. @ Suzanne: Yeah, Greece, Turkey, Middle East…and I bet a lot of other areas too, cook it in the same way. Will try the way you said to see how they come out. Thanks.

    @ Kaya Koyu Walker: Thanks. Think we like the mucilage trapped inside the okra – unseen – then we can pretend it’s not there, even though it’s doing us lots of good. 🙂

  4. Great slime tip. I used to add quinoa flakes or sesame seeds to my okra based foods to soak up the sliminess a bit and managed to get even the okra haters to eat it.

  5. @ Cally: Oh, well that’s a good tip, too for if we make something that requites us to slice the okra. Thanks for that! 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing this Okra recipe….my husband will love this when I whip it up for him. I’m not a fan of Okra, but down south in the US I have had it breaded with cornmeal and it wasn’t too bad. But bad for your heart all deep fried.

  7. No, I didn’t know that okra had so many health benefits. Confession: I’ve never tried it, but with your recipe to keep it non-slimy, I just might.

  8. I was shown some years ago how to peel okra: go at it as if you are sharpening a pencil and it works a treat! Whatever you do, don’t cut off the ends!

  9. @ Erica@ That’s the second time someone has said about deep frying it in cornmeal. Might have to give it a try, just as a treat.

    @ Cathy: Well, we never made a habit of eating too much of it because of the slime but we’re converts now. 🙂

    @ Claudia: Yeah, that was the tip we found about keeping the dreaded slime at baby. 🙂

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