Tuesday, January 31, 2012

North Cyprus Vegetables - Bamya

Okra - or as they are known in Turkish, Bamya. These are also known as "ladies' fingers" or "gumbo" because of their shape. This vegetable is easily grown in North Cyprus, as it thrives in warm temperate regions, and is very resistant to heat and drought. The flavour has been likened to aubergine, however the texture is completely different and takes some getting used to.

When you are buying Okra, you should ensure that they are crisp and firm so that they would snap cleanly when bent. They should be free of brown marks, and not too large - around 7 - 10cm is best. You can store Okra in the fridge in a paper bag for around 2 - 3 days, or you can freeze it (providing you blanch the whole okra in water for around 2 minutes first) for up to 12 months. Once cooked okra will last around 2 - 3 days in a sealed container in the fridge.  

The texture of Okra varies dramatically depending on how it is cooked. The idea is to keep the okra whole if you do not want to use them to thicken dishes, but either way you need to slice the stalks off, but ensure that you do not pierce the pod if you want to cook them whole. You can eat them raw in salads, or add them to curries, stews or casseroles.

Okra can become very slimy when chopped and cooked as it produces a glutinous substance from the seeds which is very good for thickening soups and stews. If you intend to use the okra to thicken stews or soups, you can just add the seeds, or chop the okra thinly and place in the stew or soup. If you boil them for long enough, the sliminess eventually dissolves.

Many people prefer to quickly cook the okra to prevent them going slimy - you can stir fry the whole okra for around 6 - 12 minutes, grill them whole for around 2 - 3 minutes each side or steam them whole for around 5 minutes. You can also try adding an acidic substance to the water, such as a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to prevent slime.  

Okra seeds actually have other uses aside from cooking - the seeds can be pressed and made into oil, or they can be ground and made into a caffeine free substitute for coffee.

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