Whenever I find small tender okra (or lady’s finger, as it is called in India), I make this dish. I first tasted this in my aunt’s house over a decade ago. Being an ardent okra lover, I fell in love at the very first bite. When we came back, I, along with my mom tried it with equally delicious results. But over the next few years it was lost from our kitchen. When I started cooking on my own, this dish was always in the back of my mind. It was the taste I could remember; not the recipe. I had to rekindle my mom’s memory and voila, there I was, relishing it once again.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the dish. Crispy from toor dal and spicy from black pepper, this minimally spiced dish lets the okra shine through. Thats makes it one of my all-time favourites.
Since okra is used whole, use only tender pods. How to find out whether they are tender? Hold the pod in your hand and gently break the tip with your thumb. If the tip snaps instantly, the pod is young. If it is woodsy, fibrous and doesn't snap, its mature.
Though the dish is originally prepared in a kadai or skillet, I bake them in the oven. Not only does it reduce the amount of oil used, I don’t have to baby sit the okra. But the stove-top version is equally delicious too.IngredientsWhole okra or lady’s finger – 1 lb (about 40 pieces)
Toor dal – ¼ cup
Whole black pepper – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp + ½ tsp
Oil – to sprayMethod
Grind toor dal, pepper and 1 tsp of salt to a coarse powder. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Cut the top and end of the okra. Make a slit on one side and stuff with spice powder without breaking the pod. Arrange okra on the baking sheet and spray them with oil. Sprinkle rest of the salt and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the pods gently to the other side and bake for additional 5 minutes, or until they are slightly crispy . Let rest for 2 minutes before serving.
If cooking on stove-top, heat oil in a kadai or skillet and gently cook the stuffed okra with a sprinkle of salt, until done and toasty.
Stuffed okra served with avocado rotis and tomato raita