My mother-in-law cooks fine Indian food, particularly south western and north Indian vegetarian fare. Her magnificent table is exquisitely laid with splendid cutlery and crockery for every meal. She made my first meal in her house as her daughter-in-law to be memorable by adorning every part of the home with beautiful fresh flowers and by serving a lavish meal served on silver platters. Despite the family business occupying most of her day, she runs her home with commendable dexterity and her housekeeping skills are awesome. Her household linen is always fresh and crisp and the lotus blooms in her beautiful garden command attention amidst a host of other charming flowers.
She made this vegetable preparation alongwith a host of other dishes during one of my visits when I was just getting to know her. I found this way of preparing okra/ladyfinger very tasty and unusual. It had very few spices, carom/ajwain seeds being predominant. What these seeds did to the tomato gravy was quite striking. The combination of these seeds with the okra/ladyfinger and tomatoes introduced wonderful flavours and the aroma was quite unique. Known to have digestive and medicinal properties, I was made to eat a lot of ajwain seeds by my mother during the first month after my son was born.
This vegetable preparation also has a special connotation in my life. I prepared it in the afternoon for lunch on the 9th of March this year, just before I went into labour and got the most precious gift in the form of my adorable baby boy.
Okra in Carom spiced Tomato sauce/ Bhindi Tamatar Ajwaini Recipe
You can cook the okra either by sautéing or deep frying them. I always prefer to sauté them. This can be eaten with rotis, parathas or rice.
500gm /1 lb Okra or ladyfinger
6 Tomatoes, pureed
3 tbsp oil, divided
1 ½ tsp carom seeds/ajwain
½ tsp yellow asafetida powder
1 tsp red chilli powder (use more or less)
1 tsp raw sugar or jaggery
15 to 20 cashews (soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes and then pureed in a blender) (optional)
1 ½ tsp salt
Clean the okra and dry them properly. Cut them into 1” pieces. Its important that the okras are dry or else they ooze out a pulp and turn stringy when cooked.
In a wok or kadhai, heat 2 tbsp oil. Put in the okra and stir for a couple of minutes on a medium flame. Cover with a lid and cook on a medium-low flame until done. Keep stirring in between to prevent scorching the vegetables.
Puree the tomatoes in a blender or a food processor.
In the same wok or kadhai that you used to cook the bhindi, heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil. Put in the carom/ajwain seeds. After they turn aromatic, about 30 to 40 seconds, stir in the asafetida powder and the red chilli powder. Add the pureed tomatoes and cook on a medium flame until the tomato puree begins to simmer. Stir in the sugar, lower the flame and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the tomatoes are properly cooked. Put in the optional cashew paste.
Mix in the cooked okra, add the salt and serve hot.
Serves 4 to 5