Jhaal Bhindi (Okra in spicy mustard sauce)

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‘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.

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Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 30-40 mins    Yield: 6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 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
  • water

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Process:

For the mustard paste:

  1. Soak the mustard and poppy seeds in water for 30 mins
  2. Drain and transfer into a blender, add clove of garlic and green chili peppers. Blend with water until thick and smooth paste.
  3. Pour in a bowl and set aside

For the Okra:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the cooked Okra in, be gentle when folding it in. Simmer for 2-3 mins.
  5. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Notes:

  • 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.

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