Cooking with Fresh Fenugreek

Mike our drain guy came Saturday morning and cleared our kitchen drain. (We have a relationship because our main drain runs through a grove of trees on its way to the street. We have it cleared every couple of years whether it needs it or not.) He said the methi stems really clogged up the drain and don’t try putting that down the garbage disposal again.

Saturday evening I cautiously cooked the bunch of methi. I found a recipe for Methi Chicken online and another one for methi with peas. I replaced tomatoes with peas because I had fresh peas.

More Discoveries about Methi

I approached the bunch of methi cautiously. I wanted to pull the leaves off the tough stems because I wouldn’t be able to chew them any more readily than the garbage disposal.

  1. I put the bunch of methi in a bowl of water and discovered that it would probably have been easier to work with the greens if they were dry. Next time: pull off the leaves before washing. What is the most efficient way to wash and drain the tiny leaves?
  2. Pulling the leaves off the stems is slow, slow work. After 1 hour I had about 3 cups of tiny leaves and I wasn’t halfway through the bunch. Is there a faster way to pull the leaves off the stems?
  3. The leaves wilt into next to nothing. I added a 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach at the last minute so the meal had enough vegetables.
  4. Better the next day: The Methi Chicken had taken on lovely subtle flavors over night. We think we were tasting the fenugreek leaves.

Methi Chicken

1 lb of boneless skinless chicken cut into 1” pieces

1 large onion, finely diced

2 large garlic cloves, finely minced

1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced

1 cup fresh or frozen thawed peas

1 bunch of fresh fenugreek leaves, (or you can use chopped baby spinach)

3-4 dried red chilies, to taste

½ tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin powder

½ tsp ground coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala

Salt, to taste

¼ cup yogurt

2 tbsp oil, vegetable or canola

Freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

  1. In a large deep skillet or wok on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the onions and stir-fry until golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir about 1 minute until fragrant. Add red chilies. After a minute or so, add the fenugreek leaves. Stir well and allow the leaves to wilt.
  2. Add all of the spices (turmeric, ground cumin powder, ground coriander powder, garam masala and salt). Stir well to combine and allow the spices to fry in the oil for a few minutes.
  3. Add the chicken pieces, stir to coat well and cook for a few minutes. Add peas with a little water (½ cup or so if needed). Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-6 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked yet moist and tender. Finish the dish with a little yogurt, garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with Basmati rice or fresh rotis.

Original source: http://www.bellaonline.org/articles/art22303.asp

Recipe Literacy?

I bought a bunch of fresh methi (fenugreek) at the Farmers Market. This evening I chopped off the ends and put them down the garbage disposal. (I don’t recall seeing a garbage disposal in India.) Now we are waiting for our drain guy because I didn’t know that the stems are more fibrous than celery. Now I know: always check before putting new foods down the disposal. This added a new dimension to recipe literacy.

A while back I glanced through a book about writing cookbooks. What stuck in my mind was the fact that 65% of the adult population is recipe illiterate – they don’t know how to read a recipe. Teaching someone to cook is like teaching someone to knit or to garden – learn the vocabulary and what the instructions mean, then it’s a short step (and practice) to learn how to execute the instructions.

When I lived in France, a friend suggested I buy a French cookbook so I could shop in French grocery stores and ask the butcher for specific cuts of meat. It was a great way to learn the nouns. The verbs were another issue. Melt the butter and dore the lamb chops. The dictionary translated the verb as to gild. I coated the lamb chops with melted butter. Later my friend had a good laugh when I asked about this. If my dictionary had included a cooking instruction definition, I would have browned the meat.

Fast forward to Indian food, cookbooks purchased in India and recipes I take off the Internet where many Indian women post great recipes and I’m at a loss.

This blog will be an international conversation with recipes. Some friends and I want to learn to cook great Indian foods like those that I ate in India (on and beyond what we see on menus in the US) because I miss the rich spicy flavors and the diet was great for my gastrointestinal tract. Some Indian friends want to learn to cook European foods. In Nilgiri’s the grocery store where I shopped in Chennai people would ask me questions about European ingredients and recipes. Some American friends want to learn to cook.

We can purchase authentic ingredients anywhere in the world. Now we need authentic instructions and some coaching.

About Meredith: I love to cook. My grandmothers taught me to cook and my mother taught me to clean up as I go along. My father taught me to make popcorn and about reproduce-able results. I’ve been called fearless in the kitchen because I’ll try to cook anything. My pallet is not quite so fearless: I won’t gulp down a fish eye as my spouse did in Taiwan. I fulfill my sense of adventure in the kitchen. I love to travel because I love to try new foods, go to markets, watch people cook, and then understand the similarities and differences across cultures.

Friends: Please introduce yourselves in a comment