Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bharma Bhindi (stuffed okra) - my favorite

Yes, this is one of my favorites! Now, it is already a while ago that I took these pictures and that too hurriedly, but then I didn't get time to post about this favorite food of mine - Bharma Bhindi (stuffed spicy okra), but then on hearing about Ivy's Weekend Herb Blogging , an event i have been wanting to take part in since a while now, this was just the right opportunity and motivation needed to finally post this recipe.
I got to eat it after such a long time. Hubby went to the Asian grocery store recently and got me these and even karela (Bitter melon)!! You can't imagine how happy I was. I love both these vegetables and it had been ages that I had eaten them. I will post about the karelas some other time, but here is the bharma bhindi recipe which I have learned from my mother, but this time I realised that it has been so long that I didn't even remember how to make it and some how the timing was so bad that I couldn't even call any of my sisters at that time, so I just thought hard and got it more or less right. Although, I did make a variation: I also added coriander powder which my mother didn't use while making Bharma bhindi. Another thing, which I wouldn't do next time: I roasted my spices before. I think this step is not necessary, as the okras get roasted long enough in the pan for the spices to be roasted separately.

Before I begin, I have to tell you something about the traditions of cooking in my family, which is not unique to my family alone but probably more to the region from where my family originates - the state of U.P., India. I still remember my mom telling me that my father's (paternal) grandmother - my great grand mother, was very particular about the kind of food served to her when she came to visit his mother - my grandmother. Over a short period of time we - my parents and us children- and my grandparents lived together and I remember the visit of my great grandmother - yes, I got to see her for quite some time of my childhood - something I was always so proud of, as I didn't know many friends or classmates who had great grandparents and I had two great grandmothers -one on maternal side and one on the paternal side with both of them we children had a lot of fun! :)
So, coming back to the topic, she was very particular about eating food which was cooked without any onions and garlic. If she ever saw a skin of onion or garlic in the house when she came to visit us, then she would surely not touch the food, that strict she was. My grandparents were one of the first generation of people who deviated from this culture and started including onions and garlic in their food. In contrast to his mother, my grandfather was a big garlic lover and attributed it many health properties. I still remember, how he used to say that one should swallow 1 clove of garlic (from the variety with very thin and tiny cloves) every morning and drink a large glass of water afterwards. His favorite chutney was also coriander(cilantro)-garlic chutney.

So, maybe you can guess that this is one of those recipes of okra I grew up eating which does not use any onions or garlic, but still is very tasty, being so full of spices.

Here it goes...

Bharma Bhindi (stuffed Okra)

NOTE: Recipe requires the use of latex gloves, if you don't want the yellow colour of turmeric to stay on your hands, which is otherwise quite healthy actually. I don't use it though, as it goes away after a few washings, which may however take a day.


20-25 okras, washed, pat dried
2 tbsp oil for frying
1 tsp ajwain (carom seeds) (optional)
2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro, for garnishing

1 heaped tsp turmeric
2 heaped tbsp coriander seeds, ground (optional)
3 heaped tbsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground
4 tsp Amchur (dried unripe mango powder) - sour in taste as it is made from unripe very young sour mangoes
1/4th tsp red chili powder (or more - to taste)
1/2 tsp black salt
2 tbsp oil, just enough to bind the powdered spice mixture
2 tsp salt, or to taste

  • mix all the spices and enough oil to bind the mixture
  • then add enough salt that it tastes a bit too salty, but not too much, as when okra dries out while frying, it does not require as much salt
  • check each okra for freshness while preparing it, if it is fresh then you will be able to cut it easily with out it showing any resistance
  • carefully cut off the lower tip of the okra, if required - sometimes it has become dark in colour and it is a good indication if it can be easily cut off that it is still fresh otherwise it has become too fibrous to be eaten
  • cut off the caps of okras so that a thin layer of it is left behind to hold it together once they are slit in the middle
  • slit the okra deep along the length on the concave side (inner side of the curve it often has), but not the ends - the caps and lower tips - keep them intact - prevents the stuffing to come out while frying.
  • fill the stuffing with hands by taking a small amount between the fingers and pressing it gently into the slit in the middle and then pressing and moving your fingers on the filling sidewards in both the directions -sounds easier than it appears!
  • Fill all the okras like this
  • heat 1 tbsp oil in a shallow pan and add ajwain till it splutters, remove ajwain immediately and set aside
  • add 1 more tbsp oil and put all the okras into the pan, keeping the stuffed / slit side upwards or sidewards
  • fry on medium heat initially and then medium low heat, turning each one of them carefully once or twice till they turn soft
  • if the pan gets too hot sprinkle with a tbsp of water in between
  • as per your taste, you can either remove the okras once they are cooked or let them fry further till they start turning crispy
  • serve warm (or even cold), garnished with cilantro, with any kind of toasted bread - Indian or others, or rice and daals as an option
Typically it is a part of an Indian Thali, where you have some cooked vegetables, daal (lentils), Rotis (Indian flat bread) and rice as the main ingredients. But, it can be eaten in any way as a spicy accompaniment to the food and is quite flexible and can be combined with meat or vegetarian dishes, as a stuffing for a nice sandwich or would make a wonderful combination with couscous.

I'm so happy to send this over to Weekend Herb Blogging, my first ever participation to it, and this time it is being hosted by dear Ivy of Kopiaste!


anudivya said...

Those okras looks so fresh and green! Have to try stuffing them... I am bored of slicing them and making the regular dish.

Soma said...

This is my very fav. & I love bharwan, esp. with the flavor of saunf in it. I prepare the stuffin the same way, but then fry them with onion:-)

beautiful bhindis. the raw ones stuffed looks so good, as if ready to eat.

Red Chillies said...

Very nice recipe. Thanks for your warm comments PG. We had 2 days in a week Monday and thursday in which we did not eat onions or garlic, that was during my grandparents time.

Btw, I found a website glutenfree.com where you might find good recipes.

aparna said...

Yummy, my favourite too.

G.Pavani said...

looks yummy n spicy i loved it very much yaar...

Ivy said...

Would you believe that I started loving garlic after starting to blog just over a year ago. I rarely used it in my recipes but now I add it a lot. The recipe is very interesting. I could never imagine that you can stuff okra. Thanks very much for participating in WHB.

Priya said...

Wowwwwww okras looks really fresh n green...loved the stuffed spices..tempting one, need to try soon..lovely clicks PG..am drooling over them..

DEESHA said...

I have never tasted this before .. I always wanted to make this .. looks really good

Sunshinemom said...

Bhindi looks beautiful, PG:). I love it this way too - can smell that masala here!

I add little roasted besan to the filling and no coriander powder. I prefer making it in the mw - gets done fast and with hardly any oil.

I can understand the garlic thing - I still cannot have them and generally try having half a pod in the morning with water, and my husband is huge on garlic!

Sagari said...

delecious looking stuffed okra pg

PG said...

Thank you all for your comments!

Anudivya, Deesha, Priya, do try it. This is one lovely recipe.

Soma, I'm sure with onion they taste lovely.

RC, thanks for the info, though it is more for the products they are selling. And that's interesting, that you had days where these were not used in cooking.

Thanks Aparna!

Thanks G Pavani!
Looks like it is a favorite with many of you. :)

Ivy, blogging opens ones horizons like nothing, isn't it?!

Sunshinemom, that's an interesting version. would love to try it the next time. Though I don't know when it will be.

Thanks Sagari!

I never expectd that you all would like my pictures. I wasn't so happy on seeing the pictures, but better than nothing, I thought.

Cynthia said...

While I've had stuffed bitter melon, I have never tried stuffing okra. I've bookmarked your recipe. I absolutely love okra!