Methi Aloo – Fenugreek Leaves With Potatoes

Sinfully Spicy - Aloo Methi (Potatoes and Fenugreek Leaves Stirfry) #indian

Aloo Methi is a classic loved dish in the northern regions of india during the winter months. As soon as the winter knocks in, a lot of leafy greens could be spotted on the cart of our sabziwala, the vegetable vendor who used to bring us fresh produce everyday. A regular for more than a decade at my grandma’s house, he would bring in a mix of fresh coriander, petite  cauliflowers, slender radishes and baby  potatoes also making sure to stop by the mandi (wholesale market) 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 stash to old and new customers. We did not go to grocery stores then, in those days and even now, such vegetable, fish and poultry vendors bring groceries for fresh meals served on our tables.

Every now and then if not daily, my grandma and him would have funny altercations, her 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.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 meals 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. Broadly, there are two varieties of methi– the small one, with round, dark green and extremely fragrant & delicate leaves called the kasuri methi that you would have noticed me using 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 so addictive.My grandma always used to mix fresh dill (sooaa) leaves whenever cooking methi aloo. Even though I never liked the addition of dill then but now in all these years, I like to add a few tablespoons so that mine comes out tasting like hers. 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 out quite 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.

Here are few of my tips and tricks for the best tasting methi aloo that you will make:-

  • When you are cleaning methi, just pick up the leaves and discard the stems. Stems are fibrous and don’t taste that good.
  • Always taste your methi bunch before cooking. Depending on the bitterness, decide whether to use red chili powder or not
  • This sabzi tastes so awesome with baby potatoes or new potatoes. Always semi cook the potatoes first because the methi leaves cook really fast. I usually use par boiled potatoes which finish cooking with the greens.
  • I prefer cooking methi aloo in an iron kadai /cast iron pan, it tastes very good.
  • Don’t skip the amchoor (dry mango powder), its super important and reduces the bitterness of methi. You can also use few teaspoons of lemon juice instead.

Methi Aloo – Fenugreek With Potatoes

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Methi Aloo – Fenugreek With Potatoes

An indian homestyle sabzi of methi (fenugreek greens) and poatoes flavored with hing, cumin, fenugreek seeds and amchoor. Serve with dal rice or flatbreads.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cup methi leaves (from about 4 bunches)
  • 2 large par boiled potatoes, cold, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tbsp pure mustard oil (mustard oil adds a authentic flavor but grapeseed/avocado oil can be used)
  • 1/3 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/3 tsp hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 3 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 dried whole chilies
  • scant pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder (skip if the methi is very sharp)
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill leaves, chopped optional
  • 1/3 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Pick up the tender shoots and leaves from the long, fibrous methi stems. This step takes time. Then, soak and wash the leaves under running water 2-3 times to remove all the dirt. On a clean kitchen towel, spread the washed methi to completely air dry for atleast 30 to 45 minutes. If you are in a hurry, use paper towel to press down and absorb all the moisture. Ensure that the leaves are totally dry once you are ready to cook else the sabzi will come out watery.Once the methi leaves are dry, chop them.
  • In an iron karahi or heavy pan, 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 garlicchanges 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.
  • Reduce the stove to low and next add the potato cubes and sprinkle the turmeric and chili powder. Stir around and get the potatoes started in oil. Cook the potatoes for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the chopped methi leaves. Stir to combine. The methi leaves will wilt down in 1-2 minutes and you will see the water of the methi  separating. Let cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes on medium low heat and then add the dill. Add the salt next. Stir so that everything is combined. Cover for a 3-4 minutes and cook until the potatoes are done.
  • Once done, methi will be a darker shade of green and will stick to potatoes. Put off the heat, sprinkle amchoor, mix gently (so that potatoes dont break) and let sit for at least 1-2 hours before serving (this is important).
  • Warm up and serve.

Mushroom Matar – Mushroom & Peas Stirfry

Mushrooms rarely made an appearance at meal time during my childhood years so I don’t even remember how and when I started liking them. The then winter vegetable, it was overly price and named fancy. There was this white  puffy vegetable that had hit the vegetable market and no one cared about it for a while.They say it’s a kind of fungi – could be poisonous, the rumor went viral.

I still remember how small button mushrooms were cooked with just shelled, sweet tasting winter peas(matar) & gently simmered in a tomato base. In no time we sat down to scoop the stir fry with fresh-off -the skillet triangle parathas. They were mellow, meaty and pleasantly chewy. The hints of spices, just perfect to balance the natural sweetness & adding the correct depth of flavor to offset their blandness.

Weekday lunches are quite rushed for me, you will usually find me decking up the lunch plate from  what’s in the refrigerator.With a toddler who wants to explore every cabinet in the house and has to be constantly watched,I barely cook something elaborate for myself. On some days its lentils re- tempered & served with pickled vegetables or leftover chickpeas curry with a side of yogurt. Sometimes, I treat myself to quickest scrambled egg (bhurji) with flatbreads on the side.

Even after trying hard for years, I could never get my husband to like mushrooms.That leaves only me in the house who eats them.Sweet & spicy,this mushroom & pea stir fry is few of those things that I make just for myself for a quick lunch. You could buy pre sliced, cleaned mushrooms and make it extra fast.

Many versions of mushroom matar use heavy cream or nut paste for a rich version or may a times water is added to make it sort of a curry but I have always liked this dryish stir fry than gravy. I really like how the tomato base coats the mushroom keeping them perfectly moist and adding hints of acidity.If you cook the tomatoes properly, they almost taste like a chunky ketchup like (if you know what I mean).

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped (yield about 3/4 cup)
  • 1-2 Thai green chillies, chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder, substitute with fresh lemon juice to taste)
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of sugar
  • Generous pinch of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, crushed between palms)
  • Chopped Cilantro – for garnish

Clean the mushrooms and slice them. If using frozen peas, thaw them. Set aside.

In a pan/wok/kadhai, on high, heat up the oil to smoky point.Reduce the heat to medium & add the chopped onions & garlic. When the onions start to soften & turn lightly brown, add the chopped tomatoes, green chilies, ginger, turmeric, coriander,amchoor and red chili powder to the kadhai and turn heat to medium-low. Let the tomatoes cook down and soften, cook this masala till you see oil separating on sides. At this point turn heat to medium high & add the sliced mushrooms. Also add pinch of salt. Cook the mushrooms till the are tender. They will slowly release their water and start to shrink in size. I used white button mushrooms & it took they approximately 6-8 minutes to cook. The time will depend on the variety of mushrooms you are using. Once the mushrooms are sweaty and have shrunk in size, add the peas,adjust the salt, sprinkle the sugar and also add the kasuri methi .  Cover for 5 minutes on medium – low heat and let cook.

Garnish with chopped cilantro. You can also squirt little lemon juice/vinegar if you like. Serve immediately.

Enjoy and Thanks for stopping by!

Mung Dal & Edamame Salad

Hope all of you had a lovely 4th of July. We took a little vacation to LA and Malibu.It was our first road trip ever & could not have been more fun.We spent a lot of time on beaches, sun bathing, chatting and eating fresh seafood. A visit to botanical gardens and theme park rounded off  the trip. All in all, LA was definitely a respite from the over the top hot weather in Vegas right now. Its 113 F/45 C as I type this 🙁

Breaking loose from almost a perfect vacation, our car refused to behave a couple of times in the middle of Mojave desert while driving back. Being 4th of July and with everything closed, we almost reached a point when we decided to stay over in nearby town for the night. However, thanks to few God sent personnel at gas stations,we managed way back home.

I normally don’t binge during vacations,still all the outside food makes me want to eat simple, clean meals for the days that follow. I came home wanting just that. This salad is my go to recipe for those days.

Yellow Mung lentils (dal) are de skinned whole mung bean and have a very mild taste. I have grown eating them in this dryish preparation either as a side with flat breads or mixed with ghee & rice as well as salad. Since yellow mung lentils are quick to cook, this salad can be fixed in no time.Once you cook the lentils, it’s just a matter of chopping the veggies and tossing everything together with lots of lemon juice. I added a handful of ready to eat edamame beans & there it was – a hearty, protein packed salad which is so light & summery. And yup..so healthy!

Did I tell you..this is my 150th post…kinda feels good 🙂

Lentils form a big part of indian cuisine – meals are far from complete without them – soups, fritters, flat breads, stews, patties…you will find them used in all ways imaginable. India being a vegetarian country, we get our daily protein dose from them. I cook lentils daily in some way or the other. P is more of a lentil soup person, I enjoy them either way.

I was introduced to edamame after I came to USA. I did not care for them much initially but knowing how good they are, now I try to include them in our diet as much as possible.I am still away from eating them all on their own but have found a perfect way to eat them this way – overshadowed by earthy taste of lentils & crunch of fresh vegetables – hardly making their presence felt.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 1/2 cup yellow mung dal, split
  • 2 cups water (for soaking)
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with any oil of choice)
  • 1 tsp jeera (cumin)
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 3- 4 tbsp water (for cooking)

For the salad

  • 1/4 cup each chopped red onion,cucumber, tomatoes (use any veggies of choice in any quantity you like)
  • 1/4 cup edamame (I used ready to eat, if using raw, see note in method)
  • 4-5 fresh mint/cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 green chillies, finely chopped
  • Red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh lime/lemon juice (or to taste)
  • Olive Oil (to drizzle)
  • salt to adjust

Method

Cooking Lentils – Thoroughly wash the mung lentils 2-3 times under stream of water. Soak the lentils in 2 cups of water for atleast 2.5 -3 hours. Once soaked, drain out the soaking liquid. Set aside.

In a medium pot with lid, heat the oil on medium. Once you see ripples on the surface of the oil, reduce the heat to low. Temper the oil with jeera & hing. Wait for 10-15 seconds till the jeera crackles & you smell the aroma of hing. Add the minced ginger & turmeric powder next & saute for another 10 seconds.

Next, add the soaked lentils and salt to taste. Stir well to coat the lentils in the tempering. Add 3 tbsp of water to the pot and cover. Let cook on low heat for 8-12 minutes till the lentils are thoroughly cooked but retain their shape. You need to check 1-2 times in between to see that the lentils are not sticking to the pot bottom, if so, add a tbsp of water. Dont peek too much while the lentils cook, the idea is so steam them slowly on low heat.

Note :- If using fresh edamame beans, add them to the pot towards the last 3-4 minutes of cooking, so that they steam with the lentils.This will ensure that they remain green & crunchy. 

Once cooked, put the stove off and let the lentils & edamame sit covered for another 5-8 minutes till they cool down a bit. Fluff gently using a fork and let them cool off completely. At this point, if you want to make the salad later, you can refrigerate the lentils in air tight containers for 1-2 days. 

Assembling the Salad – In a medium bowl, toss the cooled lentils & edamame with the chopped vegetables, mint, cilantro & green chillies. Squirt lemon juice, add red pepper flakes, olive oil (if using) and salt to taste. Combine well and serve at room temperature.