Newest Review: ... and under glass, it needs plenty of care and attention. The plant grows quickly, and to get the best taste, the leaves must be harvest... more
Makes your curries taste authentic...
Member Name: raynor238
Date: 09/05/01, updated on 09/05/01 (268 review reads)
Advantages: Tastes great, Adds that final touch
Disadvantages: Hard to grow, Fresh leaf does not store well
Fenugreek, or Methi as it is known in Indian cookery, is one of the most versatile ingredients in Asian cuisine. Fenugreek itself , or 'trigonella foenum-graecum' (meaning quite bizarrely - 'triangular seeded Greek hay') to give it its botanical name is one of the earliest culinary ingredients known to man.
For centuries, the leaves were more widely used medicinally - their high iron content made them useful against anaemia, and even up to the Middle Ages, the ground leaf pulp was used as a cure for baldness. To this day, fenugreek is widely available in Indonesia as a hair tonic!
Cultivation is very diificult in this country. I have never managed to keep a plant alive outdoors, and under glass, it needs plenty of care and attention. The plant grows quickly, and to get the best taste, the leaves must be harvested prior to flowering. As it is an annual, get what you can, while you can! The young shoots can be harvested early and eaten as a salad vegetable, although for me, they taste a little bitter in this form.
The flavour it imparts is of a full, rich textured nature with an almost burnt tang, rather than the smooth vegatative mellowness of a traditional herb. The leaves themselves actually smell like a cross between fresh tea leaves and curry.
The seeds can be collected and dried, but their use in cookery is limited, as they are very hard, and can only really be used in stew-type dishes where they will soften. Ground fenugreek seeds do produce a wonderfully rich aroma, but care is needed, as it can quickly overpower the dish.
The leaves are widely available in dried form, but if you are in luck, you may be able to find an Asian store which stocks fresh leaves. Although dried leaves give a similar flavour, they lack the freshness and vitality of the full leaf.
Very few cookbooks available in this country provide opportunities for use of Methi. I have found from experimentation that there is no
need for any! The dried methi just needs to be soaked in water for a few miutes and it is ready to use.
Just follow your normal recipe, and 10-15 minutes before serving, add the required amount. Some recipes, particularly the tomato based ones, benefit from a larger quantity, as it really brings a richness to the dish, and I find usually 1-2 tablespoons for 4 servings is adequate. For your milder creamier dishes, such as Makhan, or Korma, then 1-2 teaspoons is perfect.
There are many books and websites devoted to producing that 'authentic' curry, that tastes just like your local takeaway. I have found that the simple addition of Methi, has brought me my closest ever attempt at that elusive goal.
If you cannot get hold of any, the following people are helpful at finding anything for you:
East End Foods plc
100 Alcester Street
Tel: 0121 622 2931