‘Jhaal’ in Bangla means spicy. But when talking in context of a dish, it takes a whole new meaning.
Bengali cuisine has 3 main types of sauce/gravy, the everyday light and soupy ‘Jhol’, the rich and thick ‘Dalna’ and the mustard sauce based ‘Jhal’. Traditionally the primary ingredient in Jhal is fish. Since I fell in love and married a South Indian brahmin boy who cannot tolerate the smell of fish, I improvise and usually make it with eggs instead. I know! Love gets you to make all sorts of sacrifices, in this case, Fish. If your not from India, then here’s some context, the staple food of a Bengali household is fish. And for a bengali to sacrifice her daily dose of ‘Maach Bhaath’ (Fish curry and rice) is a big deal!!
This Sunday at the local farmers market I found a farmer selling Okra, fresh organically grown local Okra. This being my favorite vegetable, it almost felt like hitting a jackpot so I went ahead and bought 5 lbs. Essentially, we will be eating a lot of Okra for the next few days. I looked at the Okra and the hard boiled eggs next to it and thought, why not. So here goes.
Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I really dig how shallots integrate into the gravy and give it a smooth sweet flavor and thats exactly what is needed for this recipe to work. I also recommend using Plum tomatoes because it has more meat, less seeds and its perfect for creamy sauces. See picture below.
Time for Prep: 20 mins Time to Cook: 30-40 mins Yield: 6 servings Level: Easy
- 1 lb Okra, cut in 1 inch long chunks.
- Oil, to cook the Okra (1 tbsp if baking, 4 tbsp if frying)
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp cayenne or chilli powder
- 2 tsp mustard oil
- 2 Shallots, chopped
- 1 plum tomato, chopped
- 3-4 fresh green chili pepper, slit.
- 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup water
For the mustard paste:
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
- 2 tsp poppy seeds
- 4-5 fresh green chili pepper
- 1 clove of garlic
For the mustard paste:
- Soak the mustard and poppy seeds in water for 30 mins
- Drain and transfer into a blender, add clove of garlic and green chili peppers. Blend with water until thick and smooth paste.
- Pour in a bowl and set aside
For the Okra:
- Pre-heat oven to 400F, layer okra on a baking sheet drizzle with oil and bake for 30 mins. (or) Heat oil in a skillet, fry the Okra till it turns bright green. Sprinkle salt and chili powder when done and set aside.
- In a heavy bottom pan, 1 tsp of oil. Add the shallots, sauté for 3-5 mins, then add tomato and green chili and cook for an additional 4-5 mins.
- Add the mustard paste, mix and let cook for 2 mins. Add water and bring to a boil. Add salt, chili powder and turmeric and simmer for 3-4 mins, until it begins to become thick.
- Add the cooked Okra in, be gentle when folding it in. Simmer for 2-3 mins.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro.
- Be careful not to over cook the mustard paste, it tends to become slightly bitter.
- You can double the quality of mustard paste and store refrigerated in an airtight container for 14-15 days.
- Feel free to replace Okra with your favorite vegetable, don’t forget to leave a comment here to let me know how it turned out.