Aubergine and Okra Stew with Mint and Pine Kernels

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This dish always reminds me of my childhood in the Middle East where I first grew to like the unique tastes and textures of both aubergine and the elegant pointed okra (known to me then by its alternative name of ladies’ fingers). This is an easily made dish which can be eaten hot or cold, as an accompaniment to roast meat or chicken, or on its own, served with a green salad and crusty bread to help mop up the juices. There is no need to salt and drain the aubergines. Many people think they do not like okra because they may have had large ones which have been overcooked and become fibrous and slippery but I find they often change their minds when the okra is small, fresh and not overcooked as in this dish.

Ingredients

  • 750-875 g (1½-1¾ lb) aubergines White wine vinegar
  • 300 ml (½ pint) water
  • 3 rounded tablespoons tomato purée
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 397 g (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 rounded teaspoon paprika
  • 1 rounded dessertspoon honey
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced across finely
  • 1 large handful fresh mint leaves, chopped finely
  • 25 g (1 oz) pine kernels
  • 250 g (8 oz) fresh small whole okra, tops trimmed
  • 2–4 pinches cayenne pepper
  • Salt

Method

Cut the aubergines across in 1cm (½in) slices, then cut the slices in half, sprinkling with wine vinegar as you do so and put to one side. Pour the water into a large, heavy-based saucepan and add the tomato purée, lemon juice, olive oil, chopped tomatoes, spices and honey. Bring to the boil, stirring well to melt the honey. Mix the ingredients thoroughly together.

Rinse the aubergines, pat dry and stir into the boiling liquid with the sliced garlic and chopped mint. Cover the pan, reduce the heat and leave to simmer as gently as possible, stirring around once or twice, for about 30 minutes until the aubergines are very soft.

Meanwhile, heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Toss the pine kernels around in it just until golden brown, then transfer to a plate and set aside until ready to serve.

When the aubergines are soft, remove the pan from the heat and season the juices to taste with cayenne pepper and salt. Return to the heat and bring to bubbling again, then mix in the prepared okra, cover the saucepan and bubble for 5–10 minutes or just until the okra feel soft when you insert a small, pointed knife, but are still bright green.

Transfer the mixture to a warm serving dish and scatter the toasted pine kernels on top, mixing some of them into the stew.

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