Growing up in Upstate New York I never tasted okra until I was a teenager (this could be partly because of geography and party because of my mother’s huge dislike for it), until one summer when I visited my aunt in North Carolina. We went out for dinner and she ordered fried okra. I don’t remember my feelings on it exactly – I didn’t dislike it, but it wasn’t something I would necessarily order myself. My love for okra and all its possibilities didn’t start until I tasted an okra, garlic, and tomato dish that my mother-in-law made. Khoresh Bamieh is a traditional Persian stew of meat and okra that is found all over the Middle East. This recipe is my version of that classic, which was adapted slightly from the version of that dish taught to me by my Syrian mother-in-law.
Fresh or Frozen Okra: You can use fresh or frozen okra in this dish, depending on whether it’s in season or not. Since okra is out of season right now (but Mike had to have this dish, lol!), I used frozen okra. If you’re using frozen okra don’t thaw it before adding, just add it frozen and simmer for about 10 minutes. If you’re using fresh okra, look for small okra pods since they’re more tender. Make sure to clean the okra (you can rub off the “fuzz” with a damp cloth) and trim the stem ends, then simmer for about 10 minutes.
To Avoid the Sliminess of Okra: Try not to pierce the pods or cut the okra into pieces; be careful to stir gently so your pods remain intact and be sure not to overcook the okra. Also, the tomatoes in this dish (like anything acidic) help to prevent the okra from becoming slimy.
Persian Meat & Okra Stew (Khoresh Bamieh)
(Yield: 6-8 servings)
1 1/2 to 2 lb stewing beef or lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes (I like to use beef sirloin)
3 TB olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can diced tomato (with juices)
3 oz tomato paste
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
About 1 lb okra (fresh or frozen, depending on if okra is in season)
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepared rice, for serving
In a 5-quart pot with a lid, heat the oil on high; add the meat and cook until browned on all sides (about 5 minutes). Add the onion and garlic and sauté another 5 minutes. Add the diced tomato, tomato paste, bouillon, bay leaf, turmeric, and cinnamon; then add enough water to just cover everything. Cover the pot and bring it up to a boil; then turn it down to a simmer and let it cook for about 45 minutes (until the meat is tender), stirring occasionally. Add the okra and cook about 10 minutes, making sure not to overcook so the okra won’t get slimy.
This is delicious eaten by itself as a stew, or spooned on top of rice and eaten that way.