Back in Britain I would occasionally encounter okra, usually on the menu of Indian restaurants, but it certainly wasn’t as popular as it is here in the American South.
It crops up with great regularity in our CSA box so I have learned to love it over the years and discovered it is a versatile vegetable, working well when roasted, baked or steamed.
The classic southern preparation is fried, with little nuggets of okra encased in a crisp cornmeal shell. This is a great recipe for experimentation: by tweaking the seasoning in your cornmeal mix you can turn up the spice or add interesting layers of flavour.
On this occasion I went in an Italian direction, throwing crushed fennel seeds and grated Parmigiano Reggiano into the mix.
Pan Fried Okra with Fennel and Parmigiano Reggiano
0.5 lb Okra
0.5 cup cornmeal
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
0.5 tsp freshly crushed fennel seed
1 tsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano
4 tbs olive oil
Mix together the cornmeal, salt, pepper, crushed fennel seeds and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Give the okra a quick rinse in a colander. I find this helps to get rid of some of the gloop and also helps the cornmeal mix stick. After draining the okra add it to the cornmeal mix and make sure it is well coated.
Heat the olive oil over medium high heat and then add the okra pieces. Fry, stirring regularly, until it is gold and crispy, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, place briefly on paper towel to soak up any excess oil and then enjoy while hot.