CELEBRATION OF DIVERSE CUISINE: OKRA
By Sunni Patel
Okra seems to be one of those childhood memory foods that either leaves us with never-ending nightmares or everlasting dreams of dishes that we grew up with. This fruit (yes – it’s a fruit!), also commonly known as ‘lady’s fingers’ is used a lot in ethnic dishes – either as a thickening agent in South American and African dishes due to its signature texture (you either like it or you don’t), or as an accompaniment to an array of Indian thalis (a mini feast platter) and East Asian curries and snacks.
100g of okra contains around 2g of fibre which counts towards your 30g daily recommended intake, as well as towards the 30 plant points we should aim to have a week to support gut health. Fibre helps to promote good digestion, bulks up stool, as well as improve bowel movements and provide essential food source for our good gut bacteria.
It is also rich in Magnesium, Folate, and Vitamins A, B6, C and K essential for important functions like immune response, skin and hair health, blood clotting as well as being one of few plants to contain some protein (2 grams) and also being low in carbohydrates and fat.
So why should we be using okra more? It’s a nod to our heritage and culture, used still a lot in ethnic foods and dishes, with one my favourite being gumbo. One top tip – if you don’t like the texture, cut the okra 20 minutes (or longer) before you intend to cook it and let it dry out a little. Looking for a nice snack, try making okra fries that were cooked with Fleur East, or add them to a stir fry or Malaysian curry. It’s a sure-fire way for you to look at okra differently as well as knowing that you are getting much needed nutrients and supporting your gut health by adding some plant points and fibre to help maintain gut function.
As an extra bonus recipe for you lovely Chapter Z readers, here is a quick and easy Indian dish to try with okra: cut 200g okra into circles and then in a pan temper 1 tsp of mustard seeds, cumin seeds and sesame seeds with ½ tsp minced garlic, ginger, turmeric powder and ¼ tsp of asafoetida, minced chilli and salt before adding the okra and frying off until crispy and cooked. Serve alongside other Indian curries and eat with naan, chapattis and salad with some yoghurt.
Dr Sunni Patel is a rising BAME, LGBT, millennial chef, clinician-scientist, gut health influencer and founder of Dish Dash Deets. You can also follow Dr Sunni’s celebrity cookalongs, recipes and tips on @dishdashdeets