From my Plated Heirlooms

On the weekend, especially for Family Day,

I love to cook food from home, mostly Casseroles.

I like to gather up the family, and whoever is free from the extended family on the day along with some close friends, over a nice home cooked meal. For me nothing says Family Day like Arabic food. I guess it is in part because I grew up in Amman, a city where people celebrate home-cooked Arabic Cuisine.

Since weekend is hours away, and since Sunday is the first day of my Arabic Cooking Basics course, I thought to put you in the mood and give you a taster of Arabic casseroles. I have chosen okra casserole, because it is a tricky one to get right. When done right, it is by all means a treat! When not done right, it can put you off the whole thing, enough not to ever want to eat okra again! I know many who thought they did not like okra Casserole, but then they tried this recipe and fell in love with it.

Okra, as you may know, can get slimy, which is not very appetising. I have come to find that if you saute the okra along with some garlic in a little olive oil before you move on to cooking it as by the recipe, it will have better texture, taste way better and will turn out less to non slimy. It is all about hot oil here, if the oil is hot enough to coat the okra and cook it quickly, the slime is out. Also, the slime is only present when the okra is undercooked. Once fried properly and cooked through no slime will be present. Just simply use this step before you go on to cook okra like you normally do, then carry on as always.

Contrary to common belief that meats must always be cooked, blanched or browned before being added to food; in this casserole specifically, I do not precook or brown the meat. I let it cook – in the oven – with the rest of the ingredients, in order for it not to be overdone. This way it will remain super tender, with a melt in your mouth consistency. I do however, cook the tomato sauce before adding to the meat and Okra, to have it only reduce in the oven. This way, nothing gets overcooked, nor undercooked, they all cook equally and perfectly together, yet you end up with a reduced sauce and thickened enough to go fabulously with either bread or rice on the side.

Taster’s choice: This is a great dish to be served with just some bread and some Arak (similar to Ozo) for an elongated chat over food, like in the Mezze tradition. Traditionally Okra casserole is served with a side of fresh white or spring onions, green olives and cucumber pickles.


Serves: 6
  • 1Kg Fresh or Frozen Okra (fresh okra sold at farmers market during season)
  • 500g cubed lamb meat
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 green chilies, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 bunch coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 500g tomato, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp DS Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup fresh tomato juice
  • Salt & black pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf

Start by sauteing the Okra, along with 1 tbsp of the sliced garlic, in a dash of olive oil. Do not stir, rather toss, as you don’t want to break up the Okra. Also do not brown, just saute for about 10 minutes, tossing regularly.

Place the meat cubes in a colander, sprinkle with 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar, and set aside until ready to cook.

In a large sauce pan, gently cook the onions, remaining garlic slices, and chopped chillies in the 2 tbsp olive oil.

Once translucent but not browned add the chopped coriander reserving 1 tbsp for garnish when done, stir to mix.

Add the finely chopped tomatoes and stir to mix. Cook for 5 minutes, then add bay leaf, seasoning, tomato paste and juice and stir to mix all.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, Place the sauteed okra and  meat cubes in a casserole or baking dish, top with the prepared tomato sauce, and gently fold to incorporate all. Sprinkle 1 tbsp coriander on top, and place in preheated oven (450F-180) for 30 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the sauce is reduced by half.

Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve immediately. You can serve with rice on the side or with Pita bread.


  • For garnish and texture: You can fry some Okra coated with flour and use it as garnish to this dish along with some toasted nuts.
  • Flour coated, fried Okra is delicious, even on its own as a snack! It adds texture to the otherwise very soft textures of this dish.

Don’t push okra to the ‘Don’t Like’ list until you have tried this recipe. I am telling you, you will love it. When we have guests over and I haven’t planned a dinner, this is one dish, I can whip up in minutes, yet serve a fabulous dinner, that they will rave over for long! Try it 🙂


This recipe is from the repertoire of over 280 recipes in my book Plated Heirlooms. The book contains recipes from all sections of the Palestinian cuisine, starting with Mooneh (pantry recipes) to dessert and everything in between. Plated Heirlooms is a documentation of recipes and cuisine rationale as well as the compiled story of the cuisine.

All Plated Heirlooms recipes come with background information and thorough descriptions that in the end tie up with the rest of the book’s narrative to explain to you the formation and makings of Palestinian cuisine.

You can order “Plated Heirlooms” here and we will ship it to you anywhere in the world.

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