Aloo Methi is a classic loved dish in the northern regions of india during the cold months. As soon as the winter knocks in, a lot of leafy greens could be spotted in the farmers markets as well as on the cart of the sabzivala,the vegetable vendor who used to bring us fresh produce everyday from his fertile patch.A regular for more than a decade at my grandma’s house, he would bring in a mix of fresh coriander,petite yellowish cauliflowers and slender radishes and potatoes from his patch,also making sure to stop by the mandi (wholesale market) everyday to stock up his cart with a few pounds of tomatoes, onions and other seasonal produce.Then all day long, he went knocking door to door selling his grown and bought to old and new customers. We did not go to grocery stores then, in those days and still such vegetable, fish and poultry vendors are responsible for fresh meals served on our tables. Every now and then if not daily, my grandma and him would have funny altercations, she complaining of the vegetables not being ‘that’ fresh and costly, him arguing that his wife cooked a delicious sabzi last night with the same thing. A lot of time my grandma would haggle for that extra bunch of cilantro or few limes for it was deemed totally legit to get free herbs after a hefty purchase.On most days, he gave in to the sweet old lady, packing in a few ounces of green chillies and fragrant mint along.As the winters ripened, the leafy produce- spinach, methi, beet & turnip greens, radish, mustard became cheaper and cheaper. Needless to say, it would be a green fiesta on our dinner table on most of the days, a garlicky methi aloo to spinach dal to palak paneer or sarson ka saag (mustard curry) Methi (fenugreek leaves) are used a lot in north indian cooking.Here in the States, you can easily find them fresh in the indian/pakistani stores once the autumn starts to knocks. Avoid using frozen if you can. Broadly, there are two varieties of methi– the small one, with round, dark green and extremely fragrant & delicate leaves called the kasuri methi.You would have noticed me using it a lot in my recipes. It has a short season and even during winters it is available only for a couple of weeks. The other variety, the larger one is less fragrant in comparison but has a longer season and can be homegrown easily from methi dana (fenugreek seeds). In indian cooking, seeds as well as leaves, both are used their piquant, bitter flavor. Methi has a unique, tangy bitter flavor which is definitely an acquired taste but trust me it is addictive.My grandma always used to mix fresh dill (sooaa) leaves whenever cooking methi aloo (potatoes) in a karahi(indian wok). Even though I never liked addition of dill then but now in all these years, it has changed.However, do not use a lot of dill as it is a strong herb and can overpower the methi taste. Potatoes lend the dish a nice, comforting earthy flavor as well as balance the bitterness of the greens. Do not be tempted to reduce potato quantity coz then the stir fry will come come very bitter. The dish is generously flavored with garlic and dried chillies and is a perfect accompaniment to steamed basmati rice – dal and a side of mango pickle. The dish keeps very well for hours so you could also wrap up the stir fry in triangle paratha(flatbread) for a hearty lunch at work or school. The dish gets better the next day so plan a few leftovers if you like.
Methi Aloo – Fenugreek With Potatoes
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
3 cups methi (fenugreek leaves)
3-4 tbsp pure mustard oil (mustard oil adds a authentic flavor but olive/canola oil can be used)
heaped 1/4 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp hing powder (asafoetida)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 whole dried kashmiri chilies
1/4 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne)
scant pinch of turmeric powder
1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
2-3 stalks fresh dill leaves, chopped (about 2 tbsp) (Optional can be skipped)
2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and cubes ( or 7-8 baby potatoes)
Pick up the tender shoots and leaves from the long, hard methi stems. Wash the leaves under running water to remove all the dirt. On a clean kitchen towel, spread the washed methi to completely air dry for 30-45 minutes. If you are in a hurry, use paper towel to absorb all the moisture. Ensure that the leaves are totally dry once you are ready to cook else the stir fry will come out watery. Chop the leaves and set aside.
In a karahi or heavy skillet, heat up the mustard oil on medium until the raw smell goes away. Once hot, temper the oil with methi dana and cumin seeds. Wait till they crackle. Turn the heat to low and immediately add the chopped garlic, hing and dried chillies. Wait till the garlic changes color to light brown and the dried chillies swell, about 10-12 seconds in hot oil. Take utmost care that the garlic does not burn. You can even put off the stove for few minutes if you feel that the oil is already hot enough.
Next, add the red chill, turmeric and amchoor powder. Stir for 3-4 seconds and add the chopped methi leaves. Stir to combine. The methi leaves will wilt down in 1-2 minutes and you will see they start wilting down and water of the methi separating. Let cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes on medium low heat and then add the dill along with potatoes. Add the salt next. Stir so that everything is combined.
Cover the karahi with a lid and let cook for 3-5 minutes until everything is cooked through. The methi will be a darker shade of green at the end of cooking and will stick to potatoes. Put off the heat and let sit for at least 1-2 hours before serving (this is important).