Thursday, 9 April 2009


This is great vegetable used widely in Indian and Caribbean cuisine. It's also known as Okra or 'Ladies' Fingers'

Many Indian restaurants use tinned bhindi and it shows!

I only use fresh, cooked in a spicy tomato-base sauce it freezes well and dehydrates / rehydrates successfully.

You can buy bhindi in most decent supermarkets but it's in small packets and works out quite expensive for what you get. Much better are Asian grocers where you can pick as much as you want and reject any that are black, soft or otherwise a bit manky. It has fine hairs on the surface (removed in cooking) which can irritate sensitive skin - if you're worried use another bag as a glove.

You'll need about 1lb / 500 gm for this recipe which makes 4-5 side dish portions

It's important not too overcook bhindi as it is quite delicate and will disintegrate. Ideally you want to end up with it thoroughly cooked but still retaining its tubular structure and having a little 'bite' to it.

To make the sauce

Fry 1 large / 2 small onions finely chopped in a little sunflower oil until golden brown
Add a tsp of mustard seeds, a tsp of cumin seeds and a 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
Add to this 3-4 crushed cloves of garlic, 2-3 chopped green chillies and a 1" piece of ginger finely chopped. Fry gently and then put the pan to one side.

In a separate pan heat a little oil and add your spice mix. The following is a light and mild mix designed to make a side dish to accompany a hot curry. if you're making this as a veggie main then add more red chilli and cumin powder.

2 tsp turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarsely-ground black pepper

Mix the spices in the heated oil and fry over a gentle heat for 2 minutes. Add a little water, continue to fry, adding a bit more water until the oil separates from the spices.

Add this mix to the onion mix and return the original pan to the heat, mix all the ingredients well and fry gently for a further 3 minutes. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Add a little more water if it gets too thick, you want a fairly runny sauce for this dish as it finds its way into the tubes of the bhindi

As an option you can add some aromatic whole spices at this stage too (for example 3-4 cloves, the seeds from 6-7 cardamom pods and a 2" stick of cinnamon - remember to retrieve the cinnamon before serving)

Meanwhile prepare your bhindi:

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil.

Remove the stalk end from your bhindi and cut it into 2cm pieces (this is just to account for the different sizes of the bindi pods and to ensure they all cook at the same speed)

When you have all the bhindi prepared and the water is at a rolling boil add the bhindi pieces to the water, push any floating pieces under the surface, stir gently.

After 3-4 minutes your bhindi will be a deeper, richer green. Remove it from the heat and drain. You'll notice the water you drain off is viscous, that's why this next stage is important. Run the bindi under a gentle cold tap stirring it gently with your hand, this stops it cooking due to ambient heat and ensures all the viscous goo is removed - it's not poisonous or anything just a bit off-putting.

The bhindi can now stand for upto 30 minutes without coming to any harm.

When you're happy your sauce tastes great and the spices have cooked through add the drained bhindi and stir gently. Cook for a further 10 minutes over a low heat stirring occasionally and gently - try to just stir the sauce / around the edge of the pan. Serve.

This freezes quite well in portion bags (defrost / reheat in the microwave) and dehydrates / rehydrates successfully. Just be careful to shake the bag rather than stir.

Again there are many options for this dish - you can add crushed coriander and methi seeds at the onion frying stage, you can add mushrooms etc to the tomatoes to make a veggie main or you can add methi leaves with the tomatoes to make a herby curry sauce.

To make classic bhindi bajia leave out the tomatoes, ensure your spice / onion etc mixture has cooked through add a little water / lemon juice to make thick sauce and then add your drained bhindi and fry gently for 2-3 minutes.

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