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Give okra a chance

Give okra a chance

Don’t write it off if you’ve only tried it boiled or stewed, says Niki Segnit

Don’t write it off if you’ve only tried it boiled or stewed, says Niki Segnit

Niki Segnit | April/May 2019

Ghanaian cooking makes the most of the viscous texture of okra. People from other countries sometimes take more convincing. It’s related to hollyhock and cotton, the latter which is the only poisonous mallow – although I know people who would prefer a mouthful of toxic fluff to the slimy texture of okra. The inner goo that helps okra store water is released when the pods are simmered and cut and it is this viscosity that makes them useful as a thickener in silky bhindi bhaji or Louisiana gumbo.

Don’t write them off if you’ve only eaten them boiled or stewed. Try them whole, tossed in oil and roasted at high heat, or deep-fried in egg and cornmeal, or in tempura batter. These methods intensify okra’s sweetness and vaguely aubergine-like flavour, which can otherwise be almost undetectably mild. Pep them up with a sprinkle of chilli-spiked salt, which catches handily in the vegetable’s ridges, rather as sugar does on churros.

Ladies’ fingers, as they are also known, are fine raw, too: like many green vegetables, the flavour is grassy. I recommend tossing them, chopped, with sweetcorn, red onion and tomato in a sharp dressing. Fans of raw okra should look out for the burgundy variety, which is the colour of a young pinot noir. Regrettably, once cooked, it fades to plain old mid-green, rather like a drained bottle of Romanée-Conti.