Friday, October 9, 2009

Potato with Okra: Aloo bhindi masala

Many goras don't like okra because it comes out slimy. The desi methods of cooking okra can circumvent slimyness. The key is allowing the okra to fully dry after washing. Moisture will bring out the okra slime. Another key is to avoid tossing the okra around too much. Try to avoid moving it too much with the spatula, and the slime will not seep out. Below I mention four methods for cooking okra for a bhindi masala, from deep frying (ideal but unhealthy, to sautee-ing, to cooking in the gravy (some mushiness will occur), to a low fat microwave steam to saute method. The main recipe is something I picked up/adapted from my dear friend Gehana, who does cooking classes in Dubai...see side bar link for more info.

For the okra:

Wash bhindi and allow to air dry. It should be very dry, then make a small slit in each piece and cut the bhindi in two pieces.

If you want the bhindi perfect, no mushyness, cook the bhindi by deep frying till crispy looking (starting to look a bit golden on the sides) and set aside.

You can also gently pan fry in nonstick, covering and sprinkling water until done, without moving them in the pan too much so the sticky slime doesn't come out. They should be about 3/4 cooked if you do the pan method. Set aside.

There is also a way to steam okra in the microwave and then gently saute. You wash and allow to completely dry, clean, and cut the okra. Then you put it in a microwave safe dish with the top of the dish covered in slightly ajar saran wrap. Microwave on high for 4-5 mins. Then you have to allow the okra to completly cool. Then you heat a pan and add 1 tsp or so oil. I have tried with fat free cooking spray but didn't get the best results. Anyhow, you then sautee just to give the okra some crispyness and color. Then you would add it to the cooked masala for 5 mins on low heat.
I have done this with masala stuffed okra and also just plain sprinkled with some pan roasted spices. It works well and I can't say that the taste is as fabulous as deep fried, but it is definately good for something low fat.

The potatoes

For the potatoes: cut about the same size as the bhindi slices, which you can also fry separately and add in at the end, or pan saute, or also cook in the masala.

For the masala:

In a food processor add:
1 onion
4 pieces garlic
1 inch chunk ginger
3 fresh green chiles
2 medium tomatoes
1 tbs coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder,
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1/2 tsp dried mango powder

Grind all of these ingredients together for your masala.

Heat 2-3 tbs oil in pan, fry the masala paste until the moisture evaporates, adding salt to taste shortly after you add the masala to the pan. When the oil has risen to the top of the masala and it is a thick paste but not fully dry, add the bhindi and lower heat and cook for about five minutes more.

All in one pan method:

You can also cook the potatoes and bhindi in the pan with the masala, but they will get a bit mushy. Some people like it that way though, so it is up to you. For this, cook the masala for a few minutes to dry it up a bit. Then add in the raw potatoes, sautee, and cover for 5 minutes, sprinking a little water. After 5 minutes of cooking the potatoes, add in the okra, stir once well to mix it into the masala, sprinking a little water. Lower heat and cover, steaming on low heat for about 20 minutes. Every five minutes or so, you should open the lid, sprinkle some water around the pan, and shake the pan gently to move the potatoes and okra. Cook until potatoes are tender and by then okra will be done, too.
What ever method you use, garnish with a pinch of freshly ground whole green cardamom.
This generic masala paste can be used with many other vegetable combinations: peas and potato, peas and paneer, cauliflour, pea and carrot, and so forth. The options are endless.

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