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. Okra in olive oil (zeytinyağlı bamya) is that dish.
Okra Can Be Enjoyable
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!
Olive Oil Dishes
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.
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 the summer months 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
- 500 g okra young, if possible
- 2 large tomatoes finely chopped, or 1x400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 large onion halved & sliced into half moons
- 1 red capsicum pepper deseeded & finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled & thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 pinch salt & pepper
- Wash your okra.
- Remove the stalks, being careful not to slice too far down (see photo above) so that the mucilage is contained within the okra pods.
- Gently heat your olive oil in a frying pan and add the sliced onion.
- Sauté your onion until it starts to go transparent.
- Now add the okra and stir gently until the olive oil has coated the pods.
- Add your red capsicum pepper and gently sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Now add the tomatoes and garlic and stir together.
- Sprinkle in the sugar, paprika, salt and pepper.
- Mix together, cover the pan and leave your Turkish okra in olive oil dish to gently simmer for around 30 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, leave to cool and serve at room temperature.
- 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.
- Calories for the recipe are a rough guideline
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.
You can serve zeytinyağlı bamya (okra in olive oil) on its own as a meal or with Turkish rice pilaf. 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…