I have recently begun to love cooking with fenugreek leaves. It started with eating them kneaded into spicy rotis. All as a result of becoming a frequent visitor of a take-out food counter called Rajbhog Foods in Jersey City.
Rajbhog is a grimy, flourescent bulb-lit store that ladles out Gujarati food. When I enter the store, I see sweets and savories displayed behind glass counters to my left. To the right, there are tables. The back of the store is filled with bags and bags of packaged snacks with the word “Rajbhog” emblazoned across them. In the middle, there is chaotic confusion. People mill around trying to get their order in to various people behind the counter. The people behind the counter prepare the chaats and snacks in a leisurely fashion. The line for orders keeps growing longer. Customers jump in and out of the line. Fights erupt, my server is impossible to find, no one cares if I paid or not, the man behind the counter surprises me by remembering from the last time that raw onions don’t agree with my pregnancy, another man gives me a free taste of the crumbly yellow peda. I leave exasperated but entertained.
The food here is quite tasty, and I am fond of the tart yogurt kadhi, the spicy-sweet dal with peanuts and the various vegetable preparations that show up, different each time. I love buying a packet or two of methi theplas to bring home. And more recently I have begun buying fresh fenugreek leaves from the equally chaotic Indian grocery store across the street, so that I can pester Jagu, the lady who comes in to make rotis, to make those theplas for me at home. Her methi rotis are deep yellow and patterned with lacy green leaves, soft, pliable and ready in minutes. She’s promised me a roti-making lesson soon.
In the meanwhile, my leftover methi leaves find themselves in my mother’s aloo methi and my mother-in-law’s methi-coriander rice. Cooked fenugreek is slightly bitter to the taste, but the flavors are complex and fill my mouth, and it’s a taste that I start to crave. I’ve tried substituting arugula and spinach for methi, but it never works: the flavor of fenugreek is far richer. I use one large yellow or Yukon Gold potato and a big bunch of washed, chopped methi leaves (stalks removed) for the aloo methi.
Aloo methi, Potato with Fenugreek
1 big yellow potato, boiled and cubed
1 big bunch of chopped methi leaves, washed well and stalks removed, about 1 cup packed
Bits of ginger, garlic and 1-2 green chillies (use whatever you have of these ingredients)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
1. Heat the oil in a pan and sputter the cumin seeds. Can add a pinch of asafoetida if desired.
2. Toss in the ginger, garlic and green chillies and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the pieces of potato and stir. Sprinkle in turmeric, cumin and coriander powder and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the potato is a warm golden brown. Add salt to taste.
3. Throw in the methi leaves and continue to cook. The leaves will wilt and cook through in a few minutes. Serve hot.