Okra, also known as ladies’ fingers, has a reputation for being sticky and gloopy (in the West, at least). Don’t dismiss it, though. Stewed okra in a tomato sauce is one excellent way to cook and serve it, although I prefer these crisp and ridiculously more-ish ‘chips’. They’re particularly good if you’re also serving rice, and will be a lively side for relatively plain meat or fish dishes, or hold their own against spicy curries, dal or flavourful sauces.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 500 g okra
- 1 tablespoon sunflower or vegetable oil
- 1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ lemon juice
- Wash the okra and allow it to drain and dry fully. Spreading it out on kitchen paper will speed things up. Preheat the oven to 220˚C/ Fan 200˚C/Gas 7.
- Trim the stalk end off each okra pod and cut it in half lengthways. Spread the halves out over a baking tray large enough to hold the okra in one layer. Drizzle the oil over and mix to ensure all of the little fingers are glossed. Turn them so the cut side is facing up; this seems to help them dry and crisp better. Bake on the top shelf for about 20 minutes, or until browned and relatively crisp at the edges, giving the tray a shake or scrape after 15 minutes (the exact cooking time varies depending on the freshness of the okra).
- While the okra is cooking, lightly toast the cumin seeds in a heavy-bottomed pan until they just start to darken a little and the air is fragrant. Tip them immediately into a pestle and mortar. Add the salt, then lightly grind so the cumin seeds are crushed and flattened but not completely powdered.
- When the okra is crisp, remove it from the oven and sprinkle with the cumin salt. Mix gently to ensure all the okra are seasoned, then spread them out flat and allow to sit for 2–3 minutes (this helps prevent them from steaming and turning soggy). Squeeze the lemon juice over the top, mix and serve.