Back when I was a student, I cooked three times a week, sometimes even more. Later, when I started working, I cooked in weekends. Then I got married. It was hard to compete so I gave up… Now – a lifetime later – I cook to relax. I do it now and then and I usually specialise in two things: Fish and Pasta. This morning however, I couldn’t resist the meat I saw, and decided on a more basic dish. I asked my wife to leave the cooking to me. Time to sound the alarms and hide away the children. I will probably have to pay our maid overtime for the extra washing-up. I was about to cook – life was good (for me).
Lady fingers, or Okra, in a lamb-and-tomato stew, served with rice. Marag Bamia is the perfect dish for a cloudy afternoon. The traditional desert to follow is a thirty-minute nap. I have read it mentioned in many books.
Ingredients are nothing fancy: lamb, onions, garlic, tomatos (fresh and paste), okra and rice. The only seasoning is a little salt. Use fresh ingredients – the best you can find of everything. Provided you remove the fat from the lamb pieces, it makes a reasonably healthy meal. Less than one tablespoon of olive oil was enough for the whole deal. It serves six people, or three men.
Choose the small firm okras, remove the tip of the head and soak for a short time. Now we’re ready to see flames and feel heat.
No sticking to the pan is ever allowed! Have a glass of water handy to keep adding as you stir… I love this part!
When the meat is perfectly browned, add water and tomatoes to the mix. I do it gradually and wait for the boil before I add more. This keeps the stew from thining out.
Timing is everything. This is the moment the rice should start its playtime. It means both are served perfectly steaming – and together.
After the rice is cooked and drained, it goes back in the pan and on top of a tawa to settle nicely on a slow heat.
Time for the star of the show. The okra is added and both pans are now on a low heat with the lids on. You could leave the kitchen for a short break at this point, but I always choose to stay and watch the steam.
I used the excuse of photography to have a small serving – before everyone else. I think I’ll use this excuse again.