Okra, baby carrot, harissa and sweet potato stew

Rate this recipe


Preparation info

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Vegetables: The new food heroes


By Peter Gordon

Published 2007

  • About

My relatives in Arkansas grow their own okra and it’s a beautiful plant. It is widely cultivated throughout India and Africa, but some people here find the texture a little frightening-it can go slimy if overcooked. If you can’t get your hands on harissa (a spicy North African chilli paste), then use a Thai-style red curry paste or simply a little chopped chilli. Gremolata is a traditional Italian accompaniment for osso buco (braised veal shin), but its fresh citrus flavour really complements this dish.


  • 12 baby carrots, scrubbed
  • 375 ml instant couscous
  • 375 ml tepid water
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2–3 teaspoons harissa paste
  • 1 thumb of ginger, peeled and cut into julienne strips
  • 400 g can of chopped tomatoes (or use the same weight of fresh, peeled and chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 400 ml can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 5 mm rounds
  • 12 okra

For the Gremolata

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • small handful of parsley, chopped


Cover the carrots with cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain.

While the carrots are cooking, place the couscous in a medium bowl and pour on the tepid water, add ½ teaspoon salt and mix. The couscous will swell up and be ready to eat in about 20–30 minutes, but keep stirring it every 5 minutes.

Sauté the onion in the oil until it softens, but don’t allow it to colour. Add the harissa and ginger, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. Add the tomatoes and bring to the boil, then add a teaspoon of salt, the sesame oil and coconut milk. Bring back to the boil. Mix in the sweet potato, then cover and cook at a rapid simmer until you can almost push a sharp knife through the sweet potato rounds.

Trim the stalk ends off the okra, but avoid cutting them open. Add them and the boiled carrots to the stew and cook, covered, for 4 minutes, by which time it will be ready.

To make the gremolata, zest the lemon and chop the zest finely. Mix this with the garlic and parsley. Juice the lemon and add half of the juice to the stew, then adjust the seasoning.

To Serve

Divide the couscous among 4 bowls and ladle over the stew. Spoon some of the gremolata over the top or serve it in a small dish for people to help themselves.