Vegie provides some ancient appeal
The Egyptians, as far back as the 12th century BCE, were the first to cultivate okra, a flowering plant that grew wild along the alluvial banks of the Nile River. It was propagated then through North Africa to the Mediterranean, the Balkans and India.
There is so much history here; I love to imagine all the ways people through the centuries prepared this humble vegetable. Okra has a reputation for being slimy, but it won't be if you choose the young tender vegetables. It's easy to check - just break the tip off one, and if it snaps off you know it is fresh; if it just bends, wait for a better batch.
AFGHAN OKRA STEW
2½ tbsp rice bran oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp dried green split peas
2 tomatoes, chopped
¼ bunch fresh dill, chopped, plus extra to garnish
Heat the rice bran oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until golden.
Add the okra and turmeric and stir very gently, to avoid releasing the okra's thickening agent, until the okra is well coated with oil. Add the split peas and tomatoes, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well, stirring gently, and cook over medium heat for just a few minutes.
Pour in enough water to just cover the okra. Add the dill. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the oil has separated and risen to the surface of the sauce.
Serve warm, garnished with extra dill.
Images and recipes from Lands of the Curry Leaf by Peter Kuruvita, Murdoch Books, RRP $49.99 Photography by Alan Benson
Peter Kuruvita is an award-winning chef and restaurateur at Noosa Beach House and Flying Fish Fiji. Inspired by his Sri Lankan heritage, Peter has produced two cookbooks and five TV series for SBS Television. MORE AT noosabeachhousepk.com.au