There’s something about the mighty Methi that makes those of us who love it go weak in the knees. If you’ve never eaten this vegetable you might find it hard to believe that a leafy green, one that’s even slightly bitter, should evoke such passion. But try it in a dish like this Methi Dal, and — I promise — you will be hooked.
Methi’s easily found at any Indian store and some Asian stores. and it’s a rather pretty vegetable to look at– kinda like watercress, with small, oval, fresh-green leaves. But methi is more than just a pretty face; in fact, it is a health superstar, said to battle just about every problem in the book, from indigestion to heart disease. Best of all, it makes just about every recipe it touches incredibly good.
The bitter flavor of methi is so prized in Indian kitchens that dry fenugreek leaves and fenugreek seeds are often used as seasoning. In fact, if you’ve ever eaten a Makhani before at a restaurant, you’ve most likely eaten dry fenugreek leaves which give the spicy Makhani that perfect yin. If you’ve eaten a dosa before, you’ve likely eaten fenugreek seeds which give it that full-bodied flavor.
My Methi Dal is as healthy as you can get with an already healthy veggie. I use two kinds of dal in this recipe — tuvar dal or split pigeon peas, and masoor dal, or pink lentils. The combination of the two gives a rounder flavor and a creamier texture, but if you only have one kind, that’s fine too. To the dal I add, besides the methi, a ton of garlic and some tangy tamarind. Serve all of this alchemy over a plate of rice and you have a dish to die for.
I used frozen methi in my recipe because I can’t make frequent trips to the Indian store (the one nearest me is about 10 miles away). But if you have fresh methi, use it by all means. Methi is a tough green to cook because the leaves take a little while to tenderize, and frozen methi can be even tougher, so this is a great place to use it. Because the methi cooks with the dal, it has a good, long time to tenderize and break down to the perfect texture. Use a pressure cooker if you have one, and if you don’t — well, here’s your excuse.
- 3/4 cup tuvar dal or split pigeon peas
- 3/4 cup masoor dal or pink lentils
- 2 bunches of methi leaves of about 3 cups frozen methi leaves. If using fresh, trim out the tough stems and roots and wash really well. If there is one surefire way to make methi unappetizing, it is to leave the grit in. Chop the leaves fine.
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 2 green chilies, slit down the middle
- 8 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tsp tamarind paste
- 2 medium tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- Salt to taste
- In a pressure cooker, combine the dals, methi leaves, turmeric, ginger and green chillies. Bring the cooker to pressure and cook for 10 minutes (not all pressure cookers are the same so check your manufacturer's directions). If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can cook this in a sturdy pan on the stovetop. Cover the ingredients with water, bring to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer about 30-40 minutes or until the dal is well-cooked and mushy and the leaves are tender.
- In a small saucepan, heat the oil.
- Add the mustard seeds and, when they sputter, add the garlic. Saute over medium-low heat until the garlic turns light blonde.
- Add the chopped tomatoes. Saute a couple of minutes or until the tomato breaks down just a little.
- Add the garlic and tomato mixture to the dal, along with the tamarind paste and salt to taste. Bring the dal to a boil and let it cook, for about 5 minutes. If the dal is too thick, add water.
- Turn off and serve hot over some rice or with rotis.