One of my favourite aunts is my B mami. Nobody can help liking her, she’s just so kind, good-natured, fun and always good for a laugh. And to top that off, she’s also an absolutely amazing cook. She can make better bhelpuri and pani puri than anyone I know, and the other North Indian dishes she makes are just as awesome. Maybe it’s because she lived for so many years in the North (and north-east), and perhaps learnt them from North Indian friends, but I personally don’t think that’s the real reason. The real reason is that she’s just an awesome cook, full stop.
My visit to their place in Mathura (along with my youngest aunt and her daughter who was maybe three or four years old then) is still vivid in my memory. This was over 15 years ago, but good times leave their imprints on your brain, don’t they? But – and I don’t know just how much I should be embarrassed by this – one of THE most enduring of those memories was the train trip back. What’s embarrassing about a train trip memory, you ask? Well, the answer is that it’s not so much the train trip that was embarrassing, as my memory of WHY that trip was memorable. I might as well spit it out (not literally) – it was the bharwan bhindi (okra stuffed with a mixture of spice powders) that B mami had packed for our train journey, with instructions to eat that first in case it turned bad in the heat.
That was the best bhindi I’d ever had, bar none. I’ve made this before, but not to my mami’s recipe. A few weeks back I emailed her asking for her recipe for bharwa bhindi, which she kindly sent me. I then sat on it for a few weeks more, not because of my usual procrastination but because I just didn’t get a chance to lay my paws on fresh okra. That occasion happened a couple of weeks back and I made B mami’s bharwan bhindi rightaway. (That this recipe didn’t get posted rightaway was due to a combination of procrastination + lack of time + unfamiliarity with online photo editing software).
The okra was pretty good – not as good as mami’s (no surprise there) even with the benefit of her recipe – but a creditable effort, nonetheless.
Recipe for: Stuffed bhindi (okra)
250 gms ladies finger/okra/bhindi
1/2 tsp haldi (turmeric) powder
1 tbsp dhania (coriander) powder
1 tbsp jeera (cumin) powder
1 tsp chilly powder (or to taste)
1 tsp aamchur (dried sour mango) powder - optional
1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida) powder
salt to taste
oil as required (about 2 tbsp)
1 medium onion, grated or very finely minced
1. Mix the various powders together to make the stuffing masala and check that it tastes okay to you. Reserve.
2. Cut the tops off the okra (I leave the tail on but it can also be removed if preferred.) Make vertical slits in each one, taking care not to go right through to the other side.
3. Carefully stuff each okra with the masala powder, using a small blunt butter knife
until all the okra is done. You can use any remaining masala on the okra as it cooks, it's up to you.
4. Now heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick saute pan and add the finely minced/grated onion.
5. When the onion is soft and beginning to turn colour, add the stuffed okra. Carefully turn over the okra so that the onions are distributed more or less evenly.
6. Fry the stuffed bhindi on medium-high, turning them over occasionally. Add more oil as required. Don't cover the pan or the okra will become gooey. Add salt to taste when the okra is cooked and slightly crisp, with brown spots.
Serve the stuffed bhindi hot with rotis or as a side dish with rice and dal.