The absolute only way I would engage in any dish with ochro (Okra) growing up, was callaloo and in some of the soups my mom would make on a Saturday. However that didn’t stop my mom from cooking fry ochro with and without saltfish (dry salted cod). We had a small garden (aka kitchen garden) at the back of our home and one of the vegetables we grew was ochro, so we always had a ready supply. However they were a bit different than the ones we get here in the supermarkets in Canada. Ours were a lighter green in colour (almost yellowish) and about 2 to 3 times longer, when ready to reap.
Fry ochro is yet another dish I only started to appreciate in adulthood, as many of the others I’ve mentioned in previous posts.
1-2 lbs Ochro (okra)
Salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion sliced
2-3 cloves garlic (crushed – chopped)
1 pimento pepper 9sliced)
Note: I ended up using a pimento pepper in preparation only because I ran out of my usual habanero and/or scotch bonnet peppers. If you’re using a scotch bonnet pepper, you’ll only need a couple slices. BTW, the pepper is optional but it adds a nice flavour to the fry ochro.
Wash the ochroes and allow to air dry on paper towels or a kitchen towel. From advice from my mom, I allowed this to dry for about 2 hrs (there’s a reason why I did this, which I’ll explain below).
After which I trim the stems off the ochro and discard… then I slice each ochro about 1/4 to 1/2 a centimeter (about the thickness of 2 quarters). I then placed the slices on paper towel to air dry once more again. I recall my mom would allow the slices to air-dry on the counter top overnight. However, those were fresh-of-the-tree ochroes and not the store bought stuff that were probably harvested many days before that we get here. So I allowed it to air dry for a couple hours after they were sliced.
Why air dry 2 times?
It’s common knowledge that ochro is a bit slimy (mucilage) when sliced and can remain that way even when cooked. To avoid that sort of slimy texture the air drying process seems to remove most of the natural liquid in the ochro and prevents it from being overly slimy.
In a saucepan heat the olive oil (you can use vegetable oil, but since I’m using so much oil I thought it would be best to use a healthier oil) on medium to high heat. Then add the garlic, onion and slices of pepper. Allow this to cook for a few minutes, until it starts going brown. The next step is to add the sliced ochro and stir around. Then add the salt and allow to cook with the pan uncovered for about 20 minutes on medium/low heat.
It’s very important that you cook with the pan uncovered and that you stir very often. In about 20 minutes or so you’ll notice that the ochro starts to go brown (edges), this would be an indication that it cooked. I usually allow mine to go a bit dark (beyond golden) as I like the sort of nutty taste you get when the natural sugars starts to really caramelize. During the cooking process the ochro may start to stick to the bottom of the pot and you’ll notice that it absorbed all the oil you started off with. You can either turn down the heat or add a couple more tablespoons of oil. I usually turn down the heat a bit.
If you like to really make this uniquely Trinbagonian, add some pieces of salted cod to the oil before adding the onion, garlic and pepper that we started off with. If you do add some salted cod, you won’t need to add any additional salt to the dish.
Be sure to leave your comments below and I encourage you to share your ochro (okra) recipes with us.