In our home, methi or fenugreek leaves are one of those vegetables that neither Desi nor I can have enough of. This is a rather pretty vegetable with small leaves and thick stems and a pleasantly bitter taste that mellows when cooked into a nutty deliciousness.
But the flavor, as addictive as it is, is not methi’s greatest or only asset: this is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, prized in Indian homes for its ability to improve digestion, fight cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels, among other benefits.
I love methi in almost anything: I add it to rice, dals, curries, pakoras, and subzis, and when I don’t have fresh methi on hand I add dry, or kasoori methi, which is available at any Indian grocery store, to effortlessly add a healthy and delicious punch to whatever’s cooking.
Today’s recipe, Methi Chaman, has got to be one of my favorite ways of preparing this veggie. For one, it also incorporates spinach, another green powerhouse, that not only adds more flavor and health to the dish but also mellows out the bitterness of the methi, making it an ideal introduction to this veggie for someone new to it.
This is an easy enough dish to put together, and one ideal for weeknights when you don’t have a whole lot of time to get dinner ready. You don’t have to do any chopping, except to get the toughest part of the stems out, because the veggies get pureed. And it goes beautifully with almost any Indian bread– chapatis, naans, rotis or parathas– or with some dal and rice. Traditionally a little paneer is added to the recipe at the end, but I just leave it out, or sometimes I add some pan-fried firm tofu. Potatoes would also be great in here.
Methi Chaman (Fenugreek Leaves with Spinach and Spices)
(Makes 6 servings)
1 bunch methi leaves (about 200 grams)
1 bunch spinach leaves (about 200 grams)
1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds (rai)
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tbsp whole spices (about 3 cardamom pods, 3 cloves, and a couple of 1-inch pieces of cinnamon)
1 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan “butter” (optional but recommended for great flavor)
1 onion, minced
3 green chillies (like serrano), minced
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 tbsp garlic, crushed or grated
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup chopped green coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Boil a big pot of water and add the spinach and methi leaves to the boiling water. Leave them in there for about three minutes, then fish out the leaves and, using a little water, grind them into a coarse paste. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the whole garam masala, and the mustard and cumin seeds. When they sputter, add the onions.
Saute until the onion starts to brown. Now add the garlic and ginger and saute for another minute.
Add the green chillies and saute another couple of minutes.
Add the coriander powder, stir to coat with oil and toast lightly, about 30 seconds, and then add the spinach-methi puree.
Cook the puree, stirring frequently to keep it from sticking to the bottom, until all the water has evaporated and the greens start to express the oil. You do have to be a little patient and get to this step because that’s a good sign your greens are cooked and ready.
Now add the powdered garam masala and about 1 cup of water to the skillet. If you want a looser curry, add more water.
Add the vegan butter, if using, and salt to taste. Add coriander leaves, stir in, and turn off the heat.
(Nutrition estimate per serving: Calories 110; Total fat 3.2 grams (Saturated fat 0.7 grams, polyunsaturated fat 0.9 grams, monounsaturated fat 1.3 grams), Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 5.4 grams, Protein 1.7 grams)
A note to my readers: I’ve started adding nutrition estimates to my recipes which I hope will be helpful to some of you. There are times when I might not have the values for some of the more exotic ingredients I use, in which case I’ll do my best to get as close as possible.
Have a great Thursday, all!