Bendanso Stu (Okra/ Lady's Finger Stew)

As per the Christian liturgical calendar we have officially stepped into the month of Lent - a time of penance, repentance and prayer. It also marks the Death & Resurrection of Jesus and recalls the events of the Passion of Christ. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and culminates in the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Lent is observed for forty days during which many people make sacrifices in many ways especially by way of giving up rich food, sweets and meat. Most Mangaloreans I know have given up eating meat this Lenten season although this decision varies person to person. Some prefer giving up meat for the entire duration while some may eat only eggs and fish. Whatever the penance I think its a good time for some self introspection and penance besides giving our digestive systems a break especially if fasting or minimal consumption of food is part of this dietary sacrifice. 

While I think its a very personal decision to eat meat or not, personally for me meat or no meat in my daily menu does not make much of a difference. Being a foodie, what matters to me is whether or not I indulge in rich food (vegetarian or non vegetarian, sweets and desserts) and whether or not I am willing to give that up and whether or not I am able to repent for my sins and lead a better and more meaningful, simple and prayerful Christian life. But for the benefit of many of you who follow my blog and are on the lookout for vegetarian recipes, I thought it would be the best time to post some nice vegetarian recipes.    


Since vegetables were a religious part of our daily meals during my growing up years I simply love them and include them whatever way I can in our daily menu. Mangalore being a coastal town has always had access to the abundance of ocean's bounty and is always treated to its finest catch. This makes most of Mangalore a non vegetarian crowd. However the Catholic community being hard core non vegetarian by nature eat vegetables sparingly - maybe just one serving of vegetables and/or fruits a day or sometimes just one serving three to four times a week - which is not the healthiest diet as you can see. However, thankfully my mum made sure we got our daily dose of the green goodness and for a family of five she would cook at least a kilo of vegetables and legumes of all varieties, shapes and sizes. She wouldn't take 'no' for an answer and I don't think she ever had to shove it down our throats by force as vegetables were a much loved item on our plates which we gleefully wiped clean. 

Mum used to make a lot of vegetables in the Thel Piao (oil & onion) style which is a simple method of steaming vegetables along with a few basic ingredients such as sliced onions, green chillies, oil, salt, a souring agent such as tomatoes or sol (the dried peel of a sour fruit similar to kokum) and a generous garnish of freshly grated coconut. This is probably a preparation that only Mangaloreans will like as it is devoid of any other form of masala and is makes for a healthy way of eating veggies. Surprisingly I haven't posted a recipe for it as I felt it was equivalent to giving out a recipe to boil water. I guess my blog will be incomplete if I don't post that recipe and I am planning to do that soon. 


On my quest for new recipes for vegetarian curries, I found this recipe in Isidore Coelho's 'Ranpi' and although both R & I don't recall having eaten it during our time in Mangalore, we loved this version. Okra/Lady's Finger is stewed gently in coconut milk and basic spices - resulting in a curry that is delicately flavoured. Do note that the flavour of coconut milk is very dominant here. I made this curry last week as I normally make a vegetable curry when we fry fish - I prefer vegetarian curries to plain Dal every time. The meal was simply fantastic as this curry teams up very well with fried fish and white rice. I am sure it will taste great with brown (or red) boiled rice as well. 

Bendanso Stu (Okra/ Lady's Fingers Stew)
Preparation time: 10-15mins | Cooking time: 15mins | Serves 2-3

You Need:
Method:
1. Wash the okra well, pat dry and cut the ends. Extract coconut milk and keep it ready * see notes
2. Heat the oil/ghee in a heavy based pan and fry the slit green chillies till transparent, toss in the chopped ginger & onions and fry till the onions turn pale/translucent.
3. Add the okra and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the thin coconut milk and turmeric powder and cook uncovered on a medium heat till tender but not mushy. Add salt to taste.
4. When the okra is tender, add the thick coconut milk and bring the stew to a boil. Add vinegar, stir and turn off the flame.
5. Serve hot with rice.

Notes:

Okra/Bhindi
You can use the large okra variety that is available in Mangalore. It has a pale green colour and are quite large in size

Chillies
The original recipe calls for 8 chillies. I used 5 chillies which was a bit spicy for my taste. I recommend you to use 4 chillies and add later if desired.

Coconut milk
Extracting fresh coconut milk
Grate the flesh of one coconut and transfer it to a mixer grinder. Add about 1/2 cup of warm water and pulse the mixer grinder for a few seconds.
Line a bowl with cheese/muslin cloth and transfer the ground coconut into it. Cover the cloth into a bundle and squeeze to extract thick milk. Keep aside
Add a little water (depending on how much thin milk you desire) and repeat process. This is the thin milk.

Preparing coconut milk from coconut milk powder
To make approx 2 cups thin milk - Dissolve 6 tbsp coconut milk powder in 1-1/2 cups warm water
To make approx 1 cup thick milk - Dissolve 6 tbsp coconut milk powder in 3/4th cup warm water

*I use Maggi coconut milk powder


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