This sabzi is a cinch to make and good for those on a budget, because it does not need tomatoes, and you do not have to contend with steep tamatar prices.
There are several ways to cook Aloo Bhindi, but most of the times, it ends up slimy, greasy and is not very appetising to eat.
I seemed to have found an easy trick that ensures the bhindi ends up staying crispy, once cooked. It's about making doubly sure the bhindi you are cooking with is dry.
First wash the vegetable and leave it to dry thouroughly. I washed and wiped the okra/lady's fingers dry and left them to dry overnight.
As bhindi already has moisture in it, any excess water will end up making the sabzi slimy when cooked.
If the water doesn't dry out easily, use a dish towel to dab the bhindi dry if you're in a hurry to cook the vegetable.
- 300 gm bhindi or okra or lady's fingers
- 2 medium-sized potatoes
- 2 medium-sized onions, optional
- 3 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 tsp jeera or cumin seeds
- 6 -7 garlic pods, finely chopped, reserve the peels as well, optional
- ¼ tsp hing or asafoetida
- 2-5 green chillies, finely chopped
- ½ tsp haldi or turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chilly powder, preferably Kashmiri chilly powder
- 1 tbsp dhania or coriander powder
- 1-2 tsp amchur powder or dried mango powder, optional
- ½ to 1 tsp garam masala powder, optional
- Small bunch green dhania or coriander or cilantro leaves, chopped
- Salt to taste, around 1½ tsp
- Chop the bhindi and the onions (if using) into any size you prefer.
- Just make sure that the size of the chopped bhindi and the onions are more or less the same.
- Cut the potatoes the same size as the bhindi.
- Place the chopped potatoes in a bowl filled with water and 1 tsp salt.
- The potatoes can be cut the previous night as well and refrigerated in salted water; this will ensure they don't change colour.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed kadhai or saucepan or frying pan over high heat -- I used a cast-iron frying pan, which is good for health, and I love cooking almost everything in it, especially too because the food cooked in this pan stays warm for a longer time.
- Add the mustard oil and wait till it starts to smoke -- this step is very important.
- Let the mustard oil smoke, then lower the heat and add the cumin seeds.
- Fry for 30 seconds.
- Add the chopped garlic.
- I added the garlic peels too -- if you're a fan of crispy garlic peels, go for it.
- Add the hing and let it fry for 30 seconds over medium to low heat.
- Add the potatoes.
- Add a little of the salt at this stage.
- Always remember that with salt, less is better, as it can be added later as well.
- Let the potatoes cook for 3 minutes over medium/low heat.
- Don't cover the saucepan.
- Keep stirring so the potatoes get a chance to brown evenly.
- Cover and let the potatoes cook for 2 minutes.
- Stir occasionally and ensure that the potatoes don't get burnt.
- Keep stirring and cooking the potatoes, covered, till they are semi-done (please see the pic above).
- Notice carefully, the colour has changed and some of the pieces have browned a bit.
- Add the chopped chillies -- I used 5 dark green chillies, which are quite spicy.
- Stir for 10 seconds.
- Check the salt; add more salt if required.
- If the potatoes are almost cooked -- 80 per cent at least -- move to the next step below.
- Slowly add the cut bhindi.
- The size of your saucepan or frying pan is important -- the larger it is the less you will have to stir the bhindi and 'disturb' its juices inside.
- Reduce the heat to medium, or better low, and do not increase through the rest of the cooking of this recipe.
- Add the turmeric powder and the red chilly powder.
- These two spices act as an absorbent to reduce any moisture that is left in the bhindi -- this helps in ensuring the bhindi stays un-slimy when cooked.
- Stir gently for 1-2 minutes, so the bhindi and potatoes are coated with the powdered spices.
- When the bhindi and alu are well coated, add the onions, if using.
- At this point the bhindi is not cooked yet, as you can see in the picture above -- let the bhindi take its time to cook.
- Add the coriander powder and the aamchur, garam masala, if using.
- Don't add all the powdered spices together.
- While cooking at different points, the bhindi is bound to give off more moisture and to absorb that moisture, I put the powdered spices at different intervals.
- Keep cooking the bhindi and the potatoes in the uncovered pan for about 5 minutes more.
When the bhindi is finally cooked, it will look like this (please see the pic above).
Taste and add more salt, if needed.
- Stir gently and garnish with the chopped coriander.
Serve with chapattis, parathas or steamed rice and dal.
All photographs: Rajesh Karkera