Bamya | Okra, Lamb and Tomato Stew
Okra, which is also known as ‘ladies’ fingers’ is a small member of the mallow family, which also includes hollyhocks and hibiscus. The edible part is a thin, green vegetable pod containing small white seeds arranged in vertical rows. It is rich in nutrients, high in antioxidants, very low in calories, and some studies have found that it even helps to lower cholesterol levels. This powerhouse of a vegetable has a surprisingly mild flavour, but an unusual texture, which comes from it being rather mucilaginous – this makes it very sticky when cut, and works as a natural thickener during cooking. While okra can be cut and used in soups and stews, this dish is typically made with whole okra pods. If you’re unable to buy fresh okra, you can often find it in frozen form in Mediterranean grocery stores.
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
500g (1lb) lamb tenderloin or shortloin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice [you can make an approximation of this using ground nutmeg, ground coriander, ground ginger and cinnamon]
140g (5oz) thickened tomato paste
2 cups (500ml) tomato sauce or passata [I’ve subbed in chopped and cherry tomatoes here]
500g (1lb) young okra, frozen or fresh
1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat, then fry the onion and and garlic for 2 minutes until lightly golden.
- Add the meat and cook it until it is lightly browned and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the salt, pepper, spice, tomato paste and sauce and cook for a further two minutes.
- Ensure there is enough liquid to cover the meat, adding a little water if necessary. Bring to the boil over a high heat then reduce the heat and simmer gently, covered for 45-60 minutes, or until the meat is cooked and very tender.
- While the meat is cooking, make sure the okra is free from any bruising and cut of any stalk tops. Once the meat is cooked, add the okra and cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Serve with rice.
And there we have it! This was delicious – and really very simple to put together.
The Taste of Egypt: Home Cooking from the Middle East is published by AUCP and is available to order now.
Recipe / method: Dyna Eldaief
Photographs: Tom Clayton