Okra is a very divisive vegetable. I feel you either love the slimy texture or you don’t. I’m a fan. Always have been. So when I saw some fresh, green okra at our local Saturday farmer’s market I grabbed a handful straight away.
It was only when I got home that I thought about Mr Firehouse. You see, he is a hater of all things slimy. So the okra sat unloved, in my fridge, for nearly a week before I decided to tackle it.
During last years trip to Sri Lanka we had stayed at a new beach side resort. One of my favourite things about Asian hotels are the buffets! Love! This one was no different. They served all kinds of impressive Western fare; cold cuts and salads in tiny shot glasses. However, my eyes and plate never strayed far from the big traditional earthenware pots that had real, homestyle, Sri Lankan food. Breadfruit curry glistening with black curry powder, Kalu Pork curry with tender, spicy pork and the okra curry teeming with dried chillis. I served myself all of the above and was surprised to find that the okra wasn’t its usual slimy self. It tasted the same and had the soft almost gelatinous texture, but the sliminess that offends most people was strangely absent. On closer inspection and a quick chat to the chefs the secret was revealed, the okra was deep fried prior to cooking!
This is exactly what I did to tackle my stash of okra. The extra step made this dish much more Mr Firehouse friendly and I must say, I enjoyed the change too! If you’re not fussed about the okra’s slimy tendencies, just skip the deep frying part.
- 200-250 g okra (about 1/2 a pound) sliced on an angle
- oil for deep frying
- 1/2 red onion sliced
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 3-4 dried red chillis
- 1 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 tsp. maldive fish flakes
- 1/2tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tsp. vegetable curry powder
- salt to taste
- 1/4 cup coconut cream
In a small frypan heat the oil for deep frying and deep fry the okra in batches until they have a little colour. Drain well
In a medium saucepan or pot place a little oil and add the onion and garlic. Fry until the onions and garlic and soft and aromatic.
To the same pot add all of the dried spices and fry for 2-3 minutes until the spices are lightly toasted.
Finally add the fried okra and mix thoroughly coating all the okra in the lovely toasted spices.
Once the okra is well coated add the coconut cream and a little water to cover the okra.
Let the curry simmer for 5 minutes until it thickens. Add salt to taste and serve warm with plenty of fluffy white rice.
Polos is one of my favourite vegetable curries. In Sri Lanka, the cooking of this dish is kind of a sacred art. The best jackfruit trees are well known and highly prized. When they yield their fruit it’s picked and prepared with a prodigious amount of care. It’s cooked low and slow over a wood fire in a clay pot that imparts an earthiness while the fire lends a beautiful smokiness. The curry is usually left for up to a week for the flavours to develop. We don’t have such luxuries here. My jackfruit comes out of a tin. But, it’s a little slice of paradise preserved in salt and vinegar. This recipe is for tinned jackfruit as it’s the only kind of jackfruit I’ve cooked!
This curry freezes beautifully so I’d suggest doubling or tripling the recipe and placing a few servings in the freezer.
- 1 can tinned jackfruit
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. roasted curry powder
- 1 tsp. chilli powder
- 1 tsp. paprika
- handful of curry leaves
- 1 tsp maldive fish flakes
- 1/2 tomato chopped
- 1 green chilli chopped
- 1/2 small red onion chopped
- 1 garlic clove sliced
- 2-3 cloves
- 1/2 stick of cinnamon
- 1 pandan leaf (rampe)
- 1tsp goraka paste (can substitute with tamirind if you don’t have)
- 100ml coconut milk
Drain the tin of jackfruit and cut the pieces into uniform sizes. You want them all to cook at the same time.
Place the jackfruit into a pot ( I use my beautiful lankan claypots) and add the tumeric, chilli powder, roasted curry powder, paprika, curry leaves, maldive fish, tomato, green chilli, onion, garlic, cloves, cinnamon and pandan leaf. Mix it all together and add just enough water to cover.
Now place on the stove and simmer until most of the water has evaporated (about 20 minutes).
Note: At this point, you can freeze this curry and add the coconut milk later, once defrosted.
Once most of the water has disappeared add the coconut milk and goraka paste. Mine has heaps of salt added so I don’t add salt, add salt if your goraka isn’t salted. If you can’t find goraka, use tamarind paste instead.
The goraka paste I use. If you can’t find this, tamarind is a perfect alternative.
Bring the curry back to boil and simmer for a few minutes until the gravy has thickened slightly.
Serve hot with rice or eat it with Pol Roti, like we did.
Roti and luni miris, a class combination
Sri Lankan food can often be time consuming and labour intensive. It’s well worth the effort but sometimes it’s difficult to find the time on a busy weeknight. Pol Roti is an exception. Easy, quick and tasty, it’s something we often eat during the week when the need for curry hits us and rice just won’t cut it.
It took us a while to make Roti here in Seattle. Every single bag of coconut we found was “sweetened”. We finally happened upon it at the largely organic market WHOLE FOODS, and we’ve never looked back. Thank goodness, can you imagine life without pol sambol, roti or Anzac Biccies? Disaster!
Roti is delicious by itself and especially with lunu miris (recipe below). It’s also goes perfectly with our chicken curry and a generous smear of butter!
Serves 2-3 (Makes 8 medium sized Rotis)
- 2 cups of plain flour
- I cup dessicated coconut
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp oil
- Enough luke warm water to make a dough
In a bowl place all the dry ingredients and the oil. Mix until the coconut is evenly distributed.
Now slowly add enough warm water to make a dough that comes to together in a ball. I used about 1 cup.
Here you have 2 options;
Option 1: you can flour your bench and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. You can then cut the dough using a round cutter to get uniform circles. Then repeat until all the dough is used up.
I decided to go the other way
Option 2: Divide the large ball of dough into 8 small balls. Now press the dough flat with the tips of your fingers until the roti is about 1/2 cm thick.
Place a frying pan or crepe pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Place the roti on there one or two at a time. I like the roti to get some nice dark brown patches and keep turning them until I have some colour on both sides.
Cook all the roti and serve warm with Lunu miris (quite literally onion and chilli sambol).
Uncooked rotis freeze really well so if you have extra freeze them with greaseproof paper between the rotis and then sealed in a ziploc bag. You can then cook them straight from frozen.
- 1/2 a small red onion chopped
- 3/4 tbsp. chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp. maldive fish flakes
- 1 small clove of garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp lemon juice
In the bowl of a food processor place your onion, chilli flakes, maldive fish flakes, garlic and pepper. Now whizz it up until the onion is finely chopped and all the ingredients are well mixed. Place the contents in bowl and add the salt and lemon juice to taste. Mix and serve with your warm roti!
Note: If you don’t have a food processor use a mortar and pestle and grind the ingredients together and add the salt and lemon juice last.