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Turkish Lamb Stew with Okra

Okra is a plant of the cotton family and is native to the West Indies. In Britain it is often known as ladies' fingers, and in Greece and Turkey it is known as bamia. It gives a rather jelly-like texture to a sauce. Be careful when removing the okra stems. Use a sharp knife to cut off the stem just before it joins the pod; if you pierce the pod, it will lose its shape during cooking and the seeds will spill out.

ingredients

serves 4
1 kg (2 lb) shoulder of lamb, cut into 25 mm (1 in) cubes
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large Spanish onions, coarsely chopped
500 g (1 lb) fresh okra, stems removed, washed, drained and dried in a tea-towel
225 g (8 oz) canned peeled tomatoes
300 ml (10 fl oz) chicken stock, home-made or from a cube (optional)
generous pinch of cayenne pepper
45 - 60 ml (3 - 4 tbsp) tomato puree
30 ml (2 tbsp) finely chopped parsley

method

1. Heat 45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil in a heavy-based saute pan or frying-pan. Add the cubed lamb, in 2 batches if necessary, and saute until golden brown on all sides. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove the lamb cubes with a slotted spoon and put into a flameproof casserole.

2. In the same pan, brown the coarsely chopped Spanish onions in 3 batches, then brown the okra in 3 batches, adding olive oil when necessary. Add the browned vegetables to the lamb.

3. In a saucepan, combine the canned peeled tomatoes with the stock or the same amount of water. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a generous pinch of cayenne pepper. Simmer for 2 minutes and stir in the tomato puree. Mix with the lamb and vegetables.

4. Simmer the stew very gently, over the lowest possible heat, for 50-60 minutes or until the lamb is well cooked but the okra are still whole. To ensure that the lamb is tender and moist - not hard and dry - the sauce must just bubble very gently in the casserole.

5. Transfer the stew to a heated, deep serving dish. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and serve immediately.

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