Persian Eggplant and Okra Stew
(Khoresh-e Bademjan / Bamieh)
Khoresh-e Bademjan / Bamieh was one of my favorite meals growing up. I thought it would be fun to make it with my mom so that she could teach me the realistic way to prepare Iranian food.
This recipe is for a vegan stew that's a combination of eggplant and okra. It's how my mom makes it, so I think there are some shortcuts and substitutions.
A lot of cookbooks overly complicate Persian cuisine. It's usually very simply seasoned and you can nix the meat and make a whole pot of food for under $10- as long as you have some of the basic seasonings on hand already.
My mom left Tehran in 1979, moved to Charlotte for school, met my dad, and moved up to the Annapolis area before I was born. That's the short version of a much longer story. =)
Time: 1 hour
1 lb okra (frozen or fresh)
2 cans of petite diced tomatos
1.5 cups of water
lots of olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1 tsp sugar
Start by preparing the eggplants. Lay them out horizontally, cut in half, flip onto side vertically, and halve again. Either cut these pieces into 2 or 3 long chunks, so that every piece is more or less the same size. You should have 8-12 pieces per eggplant.
Salt generously (it will be rinsed off) and leave to sweat in a colander while you prepare the rest of the stew.
Finely chop up your onion and brown with olive oil. You don't want to burn it, but you can leave them an extra minute or so beyond this photograph. The flavor of fully fried onions is pretty characteristic to a lot of Persian dishes.
Set aside in a pot with a cup of water (bring to a boil then simmer) once they are browned.
Fry your okra in oil. If they are frozen, you most likely won't have to trim them, but if they are fresh, carefully trim the top. You don't want to cut into them too much or they will fall apart.
Add the okra to your browned onions and water. Cover and simmer.
Rinse off the salt and pat dry your eggplant.
Fully brown (careful not to burn!) all sides of your eggplants. They will be thirsty for oil so add more as you go.
While you are waiting for them to cook, you can start to prepare the rest of the stew sauce.
Add the canned tomatoes, plus a little extra water (maybe 1/2 cup- there is some juice in the canned tomatoes) to your pot of okra and onions, and bring to a simmer.
Add in the seasonings (salt, pepper, turmeric, lemon, sugar) and keep testing for taste. If it's too sour, add in more water or sugar. If it's too sweet, add in more lemon. The subtle sweet/sour balance is important with Iranian food.
Once eggplants are fully fried, add them in carefully to your dish. You can roll the liquids gently over it (so the pieces don't break) and bring to a simmer again.
Prepare some rice and serve!
This is a very small serving- mainly photographed this way for aesthetic.