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Appetisers and other delights with ochro

By SEETA PERSAD Wednesday, May 26 2010

ALL YOU need is $10 worth of ochroes to make sumptuous appetisers. Ochroes are cheap and easily available throughout the year. Chopped or sliced ochroes can be stewed or fried over low heat, then mixed with other vegetables or rice for a tasty meal.

Ochro appetisers are ideal for entertaining guests at home for parties and other functions, according to caterer Sharon Ali, of La Romaine.

“If there is an extended period between when guests arrive and the meal is served, an appetiser that is less messy is ideal,” Ali said, adding that they may be served at the table, or as a part of a sit-down meal.

Ali said ochro appetisers are easy to make and delicious. The ochro pods are first cut into circles, left to dry for a while, then dipped in batter and deep fried.

Ochroes are also ideal for lunch or dinner. To minimise sliminess, ochroes can be briefly stir-fried, or cooked with acidic ingredients such as citrus, tomatoes, or vinegar. Alternatively the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time, so that the mucilage dissolves.

Ochro is widely used in a thick stew made with vegetables and meat. It is one of the most popular vegetables among Middle Easterners and North Indians and Pakistanis alike. In most of the Middle East, ochro is known as bamia or bamya. Middle Eastern cuisine usually uses young ochro pods and they are usually cooked whole. In India, the harvesting is done at a later stage, when the pods and seeds are larger. In TT, ochro is an important ingredient in callaloo.

Ochro is low in calories and is a good source of many nutrients including vitamin B6 and C, fibre, calcium, and folic acid. It is effective for the prevention of neural tube defects in developing foetuses mainly due to its high content of vitamin B6, calcium, fibre, and folic acid. Ochro is recommended for pregnant women, as it is rich in folic acid, which is essential in the neural tube formation of the foetus between the fourth and 12th week of pregnancy. The mucilage and fibre found in ochro helps adjust blood sugar by regulating its absorption in the small intestine.

The fibre present in the vegetable helps in maintaining the health of the gastro-intestinal tract. It is the ideal vegetable for weight loss and is a storehouse of health benefits, provided it is cooked over low flame to retain its properties.

The vegetable is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming, has no adverse side effects, is full of nutrients, and is economically within reach of most individuals.



Spiced Crunchy Ochro

1-1/2 pounds ochro, rinsed

and dried

1 teaspoon red chilli powder

˝ teaspoon warm spice mix

1 teaspoon dry mango powder

31/2 tablespoons channa flour

2 cups vegetable oil

1 teaspoon spice mix

Table salt to taste

Remove the stems from the ochro. Cut each piece lengthwise into four pieces. Lay out the pieces in a large, flat dish; set aside. Mix the red chili powder, warm spice mix, and dry mango powder.

Sprinkle this mixture over the ochro. Toss well. Sprinkle the channa flour over the ochro. Toss again to ensure that each piece is lightly and evenly covered.

In a deep pan, add the vegetable oil to about 1 inch deep. Heat the oil over high heat until smoking. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add some of the ochro and fry until well browned. Remove and place on a paper towel to drain. Continue until all of the ochro is fried. Let the oil return to its smoking point between batches. Sprinkle the spice mix on the ochro. Toss well and season with salt. Serve immediately.



Pickled Ochro

2 pounds fresh, small ochro

(large will not do)

1 quart 5 percent distilled

white vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon pepper sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire

sauce

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon dried dill

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

5 small whole hot or mild

peppers

Wash the ochro and soak for 1 hour in cold water. Meanwhile, sterilise and keep hot 5 pint jars and lids. Put the vinegar, salt, pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, dried dill, and mustard seeds in a pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Pack the ochro, 1 pod up and 1 down, in the hot jars and add 1 pepper and 1 clove of garlic to each jar. Carefully cover with the boiling liquid and seal. Store in a cool, dry place.



Fried Ochro

1 pound ochro pods, stem ends

cut off, sliced 1/4-inch thick

salt

cold water

yellow cornmeal

salt and pepper

Put sliced ochro in a bowl, sprinkle generously with salt; cover with very cold water. Refrigerate the okra for at least 1 hour. Drain; roll ochro slices in cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper until well-coated. Fry in a deep skillet in about 1/2-inch of hot oil until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.



Curried Ochro With Onions

1 pound ochro, washed, trimmed,

cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, quartered

and sliced

Dash cayenne pepper, or more

to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon mild curry powder,

or to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large heavy non-stick or well seasoned iron skillet; add ochro and fry for ten minutes, turning frequently to keep from sticking. When the ochro is lightly browned, add remaining ingredients. Continue cooking for an 3 minutes longer, or until onions are tender.



Ochro With Tomato Sauce

1 pound fresh young ochro,

washed, dried, stem ends trimmed

very close to top

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2 medium tomatoes, peeled,

diced, or 1 can (14.5 ounces)

diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Dash salt and pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the ochro for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove with slotted spoon to paper towels. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the saucepan. When hot, add the chopped onion; sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and stir together until the mixture boils. Turn down to a simmer, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes longer. To serve spoon about a few tablespoons of sauce into a serving dish. Top with the ochro then cover with remaining sauce. Serves 4 to 6.

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