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By Sarah Elmusrati

This month, summer fruits are coming into their own.  They are so plentiful that you may find yourself living on them alone!  It is also the last of the mild weather, so get those picnics going before the July blaze keeps you indoors.

 

Eat what's fresh

Great to eat this month are:  green almonds, figs, peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines, grapes, cantaloupes, watermelon, okra, spring onions, courgettes (zuchinni), aubergines (eggplant), string beans, mint, basil and other herbs.

 

Try Something New

Green Almonds or Loz Akhdar 

In season this month are Green Almonds or Loz Akhdar , which are the fruit of the almond tree.  Hidden inside the fuzzy, leathery, green shell is the almond seed which we know as the nut.  It is soft and has a mild, fresh taste, and its outer-skin is an off-white color which quickly turns brown as it oxidizes from exposure to air.  The almond tree is native to the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin, hence all the lavish honey drenched, and almond stuffed Arabian sweets. These little gems are in season for a limited time, from mid-May to the end of June, so if you're keen to try them, now's the time.

 



Try a Local Recipe

Tabeekhat Bamya: Okra Stew 

Libyan Okra (Bamya) stew is reminiscent of a good Indian Bhendi Masala, but is not as pungent or complex.  The similarities lie with the use of a tomato paste, garlic, tumeric, coriander and chili base; but the list of spices that make up the Indian curry rambles on a great deal longer.  This simple stew is the basis for many recipes collectively known as Tabeekha, as the okra can be easily replaced by other stewing vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, peas, courgettes and leafy greens such as spinach, or a combination of any of the above.  The locals tend to eat this dish by dipping with bread, and it can also be served as an accompaniment to rice.


 

Recipe: Tabeekhat Bamya: Okra Stew

Serves 2

Preparation: 20 minutes

Cooking: 1 hour 30 minutes

 

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

150g lamb, preferably shanks, in two pieces, on the bone and trimmed of fat

1 heaping tsp turmeric

2 heaping tbsp tomato paste

1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder or paprika, to taste

1 cup chopped tomatoes w/ juices (fresh or canned)

1 1/2 cups water

Salt, to taste

1/4 kg okra

1/4 chopped parsley or coriander (optional)

 

Heat a medium sized pot (preferably stainless steel, Teflon or aluminium as the chemical properties of iron, copper or brass turn okra black), on medium-high flame. Add olive oil. Once hot, add onions and garlic and allow to pale and become translucent (do not caramelize) before adding the lamb. 


Sear the meat on all sides then add turmeric, chili powder (or paprika) and tomato paste. Stir well, covering the meat and allowing the spices to toast for about two minutes.


Add chopped tomatoes and water; stir, cover and bring two a boil, then reduce the heat to low.  Allow to simmer for 45 minutes or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  If at any point you find that the stew has reduced to a very thick pasty consistency, stir in about a π cup of water to thin out. Continue to add water as necessary until the lamb is tender. 


Once the lamb is ready the stock should have preferably reduced to a thick curry or pasta sauce consistency.  If you find that it is thinner, more like soup, continue to simmer until the correct texture is reached, as the okra will not soak up much water and will not take long to cook.


The fresh okra must be washed, drained and caps removed.  


Season the stew with salt.  After seasoning, add the okra, and let simmer for 15 minutes or until soft (a fork will easily go through). Remove from the heat.


Let the stew rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Garnish with parsley or coriander if desired and serve with fresh French bread and lemon wedges.





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Published June 2010

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