I first met okra back in 2007 after moving to North Carolina. I was unaware of this shotgun-shell shaped vegetable with its delectable crunch and earthiness as a girl in the west. I was not an aficionado of gumbo or other Creole-standards that used this food like it was going out of style. In fact, when we first met, I didn’t even recognize this Southern staple.
Because it looked like this:
Fried okra. Insert face-melted image of me shoveling this into my mouth during that steamy month of August. If this was Southern living, I was all about it.
From that moment on, I became a champion for okra. Fresh. Frozen. However I could acquire it and use it, I was game. So, when I stumbled upon another Isa Chandra Moskowitz recipe in her “Isa Does It!” cookbook, I had to make it. And, it does not disappoint. Plus, it incorporate another Southern delicacy: black-eyed peas:
No, no, not those. Less pop, more depth:
Bhindi Masala with Black-Eyed Peas
total time: 1 hour 10 minutes; active time: 20 minutes
3 tablespoons refined coconut oil (I used 2 tablespoons and thought it was great)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/3 cup chickpea flour (you can substitute other flour if needed – this makes the recipe gluten free)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons mild curry powder
1 cup vegetable broth, plus extra for thinning
2 cups sliced okra (about 10 ounces)
2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (3 cups)
Cooked basmati rice
Plain unsweetened coconut milk yogurt (I used vegan sour cream – delish!)
Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil and toast the cumin seeds in the oil for a minute or so, until fragrant. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil (or 1 depending on your preference) and sprinkle in the chickpea flour. Use a wood spatula to toss the flour in the oil, and stir pretty consistently for 4 to 4 minutes, until the flour is clumpy and toasty.
Add the onion and salt, and toss to coast the onion completely in the flour mixture. Cook this way for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 1 more minute.
Drain the tomatoes, reserving the liquid. Crush up the tomatoes with your hands and add them to the pot, along with the curry powder, mixing for a few minutes until the tomatoes break down a bit and the mixture appears thick and saucy.
Stream in the broth, stirring constantly to prevent clumping. Now do the same with the remaining tomato juices. Add the okra and black-eyed peas, then turn the heat up and cover to bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stew is nicely thickened and the okra is tender. If it’s too thick, thin with a bit of vegetable broth. If it’s not as thick as you like, just cook it a bit longer. Serve with basmati rice and topped with yogurt (or sour cream) and cilantro.