Bamieh bi el Zeit: Okra Stewed in Olive Oil
Okra stew or in Arabic is called Bamieh is a traditional Palestinian stew. There are also other cooking variations found all throughout the Arab world. Sometimes this stew is prepared with meat usually lamb, simmered in tomatoes, and spices. But I always prefer the vegetarian version; bamieh stewed in olive oil.
The bamieh pods in Palestine are often so tiny compared to the okra I find in the states. In the summer time till early fall my mom would only buy okra baladieh (local) often grown in Jericho.
My early memories of okra consist of my mother frying fresh tiny okra pods in oil until they are crispy golden. She always piled them high on a paper lined tray to catch the excess oil. But before you know it, we had munched on most of them. This preparation was also to preserve the okra to freeze for the winter months. Although I love this stew but okra straight out of the fryer is super delicious with a dusting of coarse salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. My grandmother’s Version always had tender lamb pieces simmering in the tomato broth because my grandfather loved it that way. This type of okra stew was often served alongside a bowl of white fluffy rice. Or mopped with warm pita bread.
I love recipes like this one because they are minimal, and they are still cooked the same way our grandparents cooked them. so simple and fast and often cooked using local seasonal ingredients.
If you are scared to try okra because of the slime factor. Well, you came to the right place. I am going to share with you all you need to know about how to cook a slime free okra and I hope that this technique will encourage you to try this delicious and comforting stew.
But If you don’t like okra at all and I can’t convince you, no worries you can try a similar recipe; my green beans stewed in tomatoes and olive oil.
Finish the bamieh stew with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of cilantro to wake up all the stew flavors and since we used coriander in the dish the green cilantro will add a nice flavor.
Bamieh bi el zeit
Okra in olive oil
Cook time: 60 minutes
2 pounds fresh okra (you may substitute for frozen then thawed)
4 cups fresh tomatoes chopped or a 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
2 onions thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 tsp ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or half a cinnamon stick
4 tablespoons olive oil divided plus more for finishing
4-5 cloves garlic minced
Fresh cilantro (optional)
Jalapeños or red pepper flakes (optional)
Trim off and discard the stem ends of the okra pods. Don’t cut too much or too close into the flesh.
Wash and pat them dry.
Tip: Drying your okra can help reduce the slime factor.
Preheat the oven to 425
Toss the okra with 2 tbls of olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
Add your okra to a baking sheet pan and roast in a single layer.
Toss half way through the cooking process to make sure the okra is roasted on both sides.
About 8-10 minutes the okra will become softer and a bit caramelized.
In the meantime in a heavy pot, sauté the onions, garlic and jalapeños if using in 2 tbls of olive oil until translucent about 5-8 minutes tossing frequently so they don’t burn.
Add the cinnamon stick, spices, and the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes release their juices and caramelize a bit. About 8-10 minutes on medium heat
Add the roasted okra and make sure it’s coated in the tomatoes. Depending on how juicy your tomatoes are add a bit of water if sauce gets too thick.
Cook for an additional 10 minutes on low heat.
Finish the dish with a nice drizzle of olive oil. And top with fresh cilantro.
Okra seems to scare some people away, I don’t know if it’s the texture or the slime factor. Well these few cooking tips might change your mind about cooking and enjoying okra.
For a slime free okra:
Choose small tender pods
Cook the okra whole just remove the tough stem.
Fry or like I did here in the recipe roast your okra. Not only this step will add lots of flavor but it will help with reducing sliminess tremendously.
Cooking okra in something acidic like tomatoes will also reduce the sliminess.
What Is Okra?
Okra is a fruit, though often mistaken for a vegetable. The light green seed pods are cooked whole or sliced, so preparation is extremely easy, and it can be cooked in so many ways. However, choosing the right cooking method, such as frying, grilling, sautéeing, and pan-roasting, can reduce or prevent it from becoming slimy.
It contains mucilage, a substance that acts as a natural thickener when heated. While this is beneficial to dishes like gumbo, it also produces the sliminess so often associated with okra.
What Does It Taste Like?
Okra has a mild, almost grassy flavor that is uniquely okra. While it's sometimes compared to the taste of eggplant or green beans, its texture gets more attention. Okra is crunchy when cooked quickly but becomes almost mouthwateringly tender when slow-cooked.
Serve with fluffy white or brown rice or mopped with warm pita bread.