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Okra with tomatoes and preserved lemon

it might just suprise you


I completely adore teaching. I love awakening to new possibilities within myself and as the old adage goes….” those who know, teach”

When I’m deciding on a menu to put together I firstly look for ingredients that are in season and secondly that I assume the average person won’t be too familiar with or a wonderful fresh way to use a old faithful vegetable.

I’ll never forget the class where the last ‘station’ to be occupied was the okra salad station and the latecomer realizing that her lateness was going to be further ‘punished’ by having to endure okra. I actually recall her shedding a tear, which might have had more to do with her day in general, but nonetheless, she made no bones of vocalizing her okra loathing and then, when insufficient sympathy came her way, finally accepted her fate.

I’m very happy to tell you that she was blown away by the simple deliciousness of this combination and that her nightmares of slimy, gross okra could at last be a distant memory. She left the class beaming and of course, I sighed gratefully that it inadvertently worked out for the best.

Try and find okra of similar size, the smaller ones have a better flavour than the larger ones.

We make preserved lemons and it’s available most of the time through our catering company. It does add a delicious flavour to the salad, so well worth keeping as a staple ingredient, but failing that, finely grated lemon zest will do.

Warm Salad of Charred Okra with Tomato, Garlic and Preserved Lemon

30 very small okra
2 Tblspn olive oil, plus more as needed
4 garlic cloves
20g preserved lemon skin, cut into a fine dice
3 small tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 Tbls flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2  Tbls green coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 Tbls lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the okra by trimming the stems just above the pod, but don’t expose the seeds. @Sami_tamimi who taught me the joys of okra reckons exposing the tunnels is one of the things that will make your cooked okra ‘slimey’ Use a small, sharp knife, and trim by slicing off about 2/3 of the stem knob and, pretty much where the line is.

Place a large, heavy based frying pan on a high heat and leave for a few minutes to heat well. Once very hot, throw in half of the okra and dry cook, shaking the pan periodically, for 4 minutes or until the okra pods have the occasional dark blister. Remove from the pan and keep aside. Repeat with the remaining okra.

Return all of the okra to the pan (which has cooled slightly) with the garlic, olive oil and preserved lemon. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, shaking the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, 2 Tbls water, the chopped herbs, lemon juice, a little salt and some black pepper. Stirring  gently only enough as is necessary, cook for 2 minutes so that the tomatoes warm through.

Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with some olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and serve.

recipe notes and alternatives
I like to toss cherry tomatoes in with the okra, once they have charred, and the olive oil, allowing the tomatoes to char slightly too. You can do this with wedges of tomatoes as well as long as you put the wedges in skin side down. Then add the garlic, a little later add the water, and go from there.

Minimise stirring of the dish so the okra do not break up. This will also eliminate the sliminess that can come with okra.