We were excited to attend an event called Cooking as Inheritance: Beyond Soul Food in the African Diaspora a talk by Chefs Carla Hall and Pierre Thiam at the Museum of Food and Drink in Brookln, New York. Hall, a Tennessee Native, and Thiam, a chef born in Senegal who has been cooking in New York for over 20 years, had an enlightening discussion tracing the roots of American soul food to similar dishes in Africa.

Afterwards they each used the kitchen in the presentation space to cook their interpretation of an okra stew, Thiam presenting a traditional Senegalese Soupou Kandja, and Hall making this chunky okra stew with fire roasted tomatoes. I really loved both preparations and was excited to try cooking both at home. This was my attempt at recreating Hall’s okra stew, and I’ll be writing up my attempt at the Soupou Kandja separately.

Okra has a bad reputation for being slimy- even this recipe’s chef Carla Hall admitted that she is turned off by some traditional preparations of Okra. However, she presented this as a way to present a smoky, drier okra by roasting the okra chunks in batches and adding it to the bowl of stew after it has been taken off the heat.

Though she prepared it as a vegetarian dish, I’ve added bacon strips to enhance the smoky flavor of the charred okra. I love the chunky texture of this stew and smoky flavor.

  • 4 servings
  • 10 mins
  • 35 mins
  • 45 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 pound okra
  • 1/2 pound onion, diced
  • 1/2 pound celery, diced
  • 1/2 pound carrot, diced
  • 28 oz tomatoes, diced, fire roasted
  • ricotta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 strips bacon, cut into batons
  • bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 8 oz. chicken stock

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Wash the okra well and trim the ends. Slice into 1/4 inch rounds.
  • Toss the okra with a generous amount of salt and olive oil and set aside.
  • In a large dutch oven, sauté the bacon with olive oil over medium heat util lightly crispy, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots and sweat over low heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the fire roasted tomatoes, bay leaf, chili flakes, and chicken stock and let come to a simmer on medium heat. When it reaches a slow simmer, lower the heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Spread the sliced okra on a baking sheet. Place in the heated oven for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove the okra when it is lightly toasted.
  • Remove the dutch oven from the heat. Ladle the tomato soup into bowls and top with the okra.