Za'atar is an aromatic, Middle Eastern spice blend commonly used to flavour dishes and season bread. Okra, whilst not widely known in Australia, is revered in other countries for its nutrients, delicate texture and unique flavour. The secret to this ingredient is cooking it whole, so the okra can maintain its lovely texture. Serve this dish hot or at room temperature.
- 1½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 1½ tbsp za'atar (see Note), plus extra to serve
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 400 g okra, stems trimmed
- 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 lemon, finely grated rind and juice
- salt and pepper
- 100 g Israeli couscous (see Note)
- 2 tbsp chopped dill
- 60 ml (¼ cup) Greek yoghurt
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium to high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Add the za'atar, cook for 1 minute then add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more. Add the okra, tomatoes and lemon rind and bring to the boil. Season well, give everything a good stir then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15–17 minutes until tender but not overly soft. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and half the dill. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper or lemon juice to taste.
Meanwhile, cook the couscous in salted boiling water for 5–6 minutes until tender. Drain, return to the warm saucepan with 2 teaspoons olive oil and mix to coat. Cover and set aside.
To serve, divide the couscous and okra mixture between bowls. Scatter over the remaining dill and sprinkle with extra za'atar. Serve with yoghurt.
• Za'atar is available from Middle Eastern food stores, some continental delis and quality spice merchants.
• Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, is available from Middle Eastern food stores and some supermarkets and continental delis.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Rachel Lane. Creative concept by Lou Fay.