Greekstyle Braised Okra (bamies) with Chicken
I have a new found love and appreciation for okra since moving to Trinidad. They are in abundance when in season and added to several popular Trini dishes. Growing up we just never ate them because my parents weren’t really fans, as many people aren’t. The whole slime factor can be a big deterrent, and there’s something about the seeds that people either love or hate.
I accept and love them as a whole - slime included. Love them in callaloo or crispy and panfried too. There are a few ways to prep them to prevent them from getting too slimy. First is to brine them a bit in acid. In this recipe it’s both red wine vinegar and lemon that are the acidic components. The acidity helps them keep their integrity, meaning they don’t burst as easily and release the slime. Also dehydrating them works really well too If you have to cut into them and fry them as I did in the recipe for fry okra. Many here actually let them sun dry outside for a couple hours. That is not necessary in this recipe because they cook whole.
This dish is a classic Greek summer dish. It’s classic but can be prepped in may different ways. You can roast this instead of braising it which is also fabulous. You can have it as a vegetarian dish and cooked lathera style. I have seen many recipes that call for frying the okra first to help keep them slime free but I liked Akis Petrizakis way of incorporating the okra into the dish so I used his method for this part of the dish. He places them over the chicken to allow them to steam and cook before they get mixed in, and with an extra bit of lemon juice on them they are sure to maintain their integrity.
One thing that stays constant with greek style cooked okra is that they are cooked in tomato sauce with onions and garlic and usually served with a good sprinkle of parsley.
His get spiced with coriander which is nice but I went more traditional with my spice mix. I think this would be really nice with fresh marjoram too, and even the addition of a little cinnamon which will sweeten the sauce up a bit. One thing that stays constant with greek style cooked okra is that they are cooked in tomato sauce with onions and garlic and usually served with a good sprinkle of parsley.
Hope you like my version of this classic Greek summer dish!! Me and hubby loved it and will be making it every time okra season rolls around!
1 1⁄2 lbs of okra tough ends trimmed
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp salt for brining the Okra and extra to taste
1 Whole Chicken cut into pieces or approx 6-8 pieces of thighs alternatively- cleaned, dried and seasoned with salt and pepper and 1 tsp of Oregano
2-3 tbsp of Olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 carrot peeled and chopped
1-2 stalks of celery chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1⁄2 tsp Chili flakes or 1 tsp cayenne pepper alternatively (optional for a hint of heat)
1 tsp Thyme
Pinch of sugar
1 cup water or broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1⁄4 cup fresh parsley chopped
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon (and extra to squeeze over dish when serving — optional)
Place okra in a bowl with the vinegar and 1 tbsp of salt and let sit stirring a couple times for 1⁄2 hour up to an hour while you prep the rest of the meal
Heat up Olive oil in a deep heavy bottom skillet or Dutch oven to medium/high and brown the chicken on both sides in batches until golden brown and so that the skin side is slightly crispy, set aside
Add a little more oil to pan if needed and add in the onion, carrot, celery, chilli flakes or cayenne pepper and sauté until veggies are soft about 5-10 minutes
Add the garlic and thyme and sauté for another minute until fragrant and then add in the can of chopped tomatoes with a pinch of sugar, season with salt and pepper and let simmer and cook for ten minutes
Add the tomato paste and water or broth and simmer for another couple of minutes stirring until all combined
Reduce heat to medium and nestle the pieces of chicken in the sauce and let cook uncovered for approx 30 minutes and feel free to add a little more broth or water if the sauce gets too dry.
Drain and rinse okra (optional — you can just drain but I like to rinse off some of the salt and then pat dry) And place them over the chicken without mixing them in. Squeeze the lemon juice over the okra (the acidity of the lemon juice will help them keep their integrity as they cook and soften), cover the pan and let them simmer with the chicken for another 20-30 minutes
Remove the chicken and plate, mix the okra into the sauce and add to plate with chicken (if I wanted that chicken crisp again, When i remove it I place it onto a baking sheet and put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes before plating - optional)
Serve with pasta, rice or on their own sprinkled with fresh parsley, with crusty bread and lots of Feta