"If, like me, your first taste of okra was a scary, slimy affair, you probably divorced yourself from ever tasting it again. Fried crisp, however, it's completely converting," says Sean Moran, head chef at Sean's in Bondi, Sydney. "Its seedy crunch is great in a salad with softer textures; tomatoes make a fun springboard. I'm a sucker for heirloom anything, and the tomato family is a complete joy – if you can find them, green tigers are my favourite. Combined with pistachio pesto and basil, this salad brings the gentle calm of a summer garden onto your plate."
- 75 gm (½ cup) pistachio nuts
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup (firmly packed) basil leaves
- 6 black peppercorns
- 80 ml (⅔ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
- 18 small-medium okra (180gm)
- 250 ml (1 cup) mild olive oil, vegetable oil or canola oil
- 12 (about 800gm) ripe heirloom tomatoes
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (see note)
- 150 gm marinated goat's feta (see note)
- 1Preheat oven to 100°C. Roast pistachio nuts on an oven tray until crisp and golden (50 minutes to 1 hour). Transfer to a mortar with garlic, most of the basil leaves (reserve a few to serve), peppercorns and ¾ tsp sea salt flakes and pound with a pestle to a coarse paste, adding 1½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil to form a pesto-like consistency.
- 2Cut two slits lengthways along each okra from the pointed tip, but keeping the crown intact, so each okra has three fingers joined at the crown. Splay apart and toss okra with 1 tsp salt in a bowl. Stand until liquid seeps out (30 minutes). Dry completely by pressing okra firmly between paper towels.
- 3Heat mild olive oil in a large, deep frying pan to 180°C. Fry okra in batches, turning occasionally, until deep golden and crisp (5-7 minutes; be careful, hot oil will spit). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- 4Slice tomatoes 1cm thick and spread on a platter. Drizzle with vinegar, then dot with pesto. Crumble feta over, and tear and scatter reserved basil on top. Drizzle with remaining extra-virgin olive oil and scatter with fried okra to serve.
Moran uses Wirraninna Ridge apple cider vinegar from Bilpin and Willowbrae or Meredith Dairy feta.Drink suggestion: A rosé with some body, such as the 2017 Farr Rising Saignee from Geelong. Drink suggestion by Beverley Woods.