Okra stuffed with spiced coconut ready for cooking (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Hold the chocolate-covered strawberries, cakes, mousse, ice cream and gourmet bars, this Valentine, gimme some okra and our love will be everlasting. I. Love. Okra.

Let me state this upfront for all those who profess to love okra but screw up their faces at the silkiness of the vegetable. You cannot say that you love okra and not like the slime. Sorry, the two go together. And true love is unconditional. You also cannot proclaim to love okra and then declare that you only like it in certain things or preferred ways. Eh-eh, you got to love it any which way.

Every week when I go to the market, I buy at least 2 pounds of okra. Every week. I just love okra so much and never get tired of eating it. The fact that it is associated with several health benefits is a bonus. I eat it simply because I like the vegetable. What I know for sure is that it is a rich source of Vitamin C and dietary fibre, and it promotes good digestive health. There are reports that Okra may help lower cholesterol due to the high fibre content and that it can help reduce the absorption rate of glucose levels which in turn can reduce blood sugar levels. Hey, even if the studies are ongoing, it is a win-win eating okra.

Okra Dhal (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Fresh, green, and inherently sweet, okra can be cut into rounds, sliced lengthways or left whole when cooking. It is versatile in that it can be prepared in many ways – fried crisp, sautéed, curried, steamed, roasted, stuffed or pickled. I do not have a favourite way in which I like okra prepared, but I definitely have 2 go-to ways in which I cook okra – cut into rounds and sautéed, seasoned with only a light sprinkling of salt (at the end of cooking) and lots of freshly ground black pepper. So, so, good! The other way is steamed and dressed with a soy sauce-lime juice dressing. Done the latter way, I can eat a plateful as a meal. The addition of diced tomatoes or corn makes it even more appetizing and nutritional.

Steamed Okra & Diced Tomatoes to be dressed with soy-lime dressing (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

In addition to dropping a few okra into a fish curry, sometimes I make a curry of okra alone with coconut milk. Soups, Mettagee and Cook-up Rice all get topped with whole okra added to the pot with just enough time towards the end of cooking to steam the okra. Oh, I like to add okra whole to dhal. Cooked that way, I eat it just like that with rice, no need for anything else but a little Achar on the side. Yum!

One of the more interesting ways I have cooked okra after seeing it on a blog was stuffed with a spiced coconut paste. It works great as an appetizer (okay, great for okra lovers like myself) and as a side dish or snack. The okra is left whole, split lengthways and pried open to be stuffed with a mixture of finely grated fresh coconut and split pea power, along with sautéed onions, garlic, hot pepper and ground jeera/cumin. The stuffed okra is then sautéed and cooked on low heat until cooked through and tender, turning them over once.

This weekend, the love celebration continues – I am making Murtani (Upar Gaar), a Trini fire-roasted mash up of okra, eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and hot pepper. Smokey, silky, and peppery hot. Oh, how I love okra.




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