Ghanaian Okra

As with many of you out there I’m sure, I’m looking to eat a bit more healthily over January and attain that beach body for when we’re finally allowed to take that well-merited break in the sun. Fortunately, although we cannot travel, we can re-create foreign flavours in our kitchen. I decided to adapt a recipe from Shelina Permaloo’s cookbook ‘The Sunshine Diet’. Shelina won Masterchef quite a few years ago now with her Mauritian cuisine and I’ve enjoyed several of the recipes from her book. This was light, flavourful and nourishing. I had to order some shrimp paste from Amazon as it wasn’t stocked in my local supermarket but it was cheap enough from there. A word of warning – the paste alone does not have the most charming odour! I served this with some bulgur wheat because as an English person I feel that there should always be a carb element in every dish though I’m sure this could work equally with rice, cous-cous or quinoa.

Ingredients

1 teaspoon shrimp paste

250g cherry tomatoes

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

Oil (spray oil if you are calorie-conscious)

1 tbsp thyme

1 tbsp curry paste

1/2 tsp curry powder

1 vegetable stock cube

1 tin black beans

15-20 okra (per the recipe – I used frozen okra that had already been chopped up so I guessed the amount)

salt

coriander

1 punnet mushrooms

Method

1.) Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic. In a food processor, blitz these, the tomatoes and the shrimp paste.

2.) Chop up the mushrooms ( I never peel mushrooms as I’m far too lazy, I just wash off the soil)

3.) Start to fry these until they’ve started to brown. In the meantime, pick the thyme leaves from the stalks.

4.) If you had frozen okra like I did (it’s fairly difficult in the UK to find fresh okra so I pounced on a big bag of frozen okra in the world-food section of the freezer aisle), then add these to the pan to defrost. Hopefully with more grace than I did i.e. banging large blocks of frozen okra against the side of the pan to try to detach them.

5.) Once the mushrooms are cooked/okra defrosted, empty the pan into a bowl.

6.) Add the processed mixture into the pan and cook it down for a couple of minutes, then add the thyme, curry paste, powder and vegetable stock.

7.) Now, add the okra (and mushrooms). Reduce the temperature and cook for 10 – 15 minutes – you may need to add some water. Okra becomes gluey when overcooked which is why I would only put the fresh okra in at this point.

8.) While this is simmering, chop up the coriander and drain and rinse the black beans. For some reason the gluey liquid in a tin of black beans really repulses me, as with some people and raw meat. It’s only water and beans – completely illogical!

8.) Chuck the beans in the pan to warm through. When finished, add salt to taste, sprinkle over the coriander and voila – one quick, tasty and healthy slice of sunshine to get you through January.

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