Venthayam(Methi in Hindi and Fenugreek in English) is a regular herb used in South Indian cooking, atleast once a week. Most of the spice powders will have the addition of roasted fenugreek, and it is also common in pickles to act as a stabilizer.
Both the leaves and seeds are used for cooking and flavoring, though they taste slightly bitter. Besides cooking, Fenugreek has a lot of medicinal uses:
- Fenugreek seeds help to lower cholesterol levels.
- The seeds are used as a cure(to control) diabetes (Check with the doctor first before using, as there can be some side effects)
- For women, fenugreek seeds are a good cure for Menopause and PMS. Regular use of fenugreek will increase lactation for nursing mothers. But if taken during pregnancy, the fenugreek infused water can induce labor, because of this use, it is also given during labor to help in the process of child birth. Fenugreek seeds with rice or Urad Dal(black lentil gram) is made into a soft pudding and that also helps to strengthen the uterus.
- Soaking a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in half a cup of yogurt and taking it in the morning will reduce body heat.
- Fenugreek seeds with yogurt is a good cure for uncomfortable tummy (Diarrhea).
- When used with yogurt or vinegar as a conditioner, fenugreek seed paste can help in hair growth.
How to use fenugreek in cooking:
I like using fenugreek seeds for a spicy tamarind sauce and the leaves for a comforting rice dish(Khichdi).
Methi Khichdi: (Vegetables, rice and lentils with Fenugreek leaves)
Rice- 1 cup
Lentils(yellow or green moong beans)- 1/2 cup
Salt- to taste
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala powder- 2 tsp
Chopped Ginger and Garlic- 1 tsp each
Red onions- Chopped-1/4 cup
Fenugreek leaves- 1 cup
Mixed vegetables (carrot, peas,cauliflower, potato, beans)- all together- 1 cup
Olive oil- 1 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Cinnamon sticks- 1″ piece
Cilantro leaves- to garnish
This dish can be prepared as a one pot dish, in a slow cooker, in a pressure cooker or a rice cooker. With mild spices and vegetables, it is the comfort food for a weekend brunch or a weekday dinner. It is very simple to prepare this khichdi and you can throw in all the veggies you want if you want to clear out the fridge. Whichever way you cook, add lot of water to cook the rice.
Stove top: Wash the lentils and rice, keep aside.Heat olive oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, bay leaf and cinnamon sticks. Fry well for a minute, add onions, green chilies, ginger and garlic and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the fenugreek leaves, chopped vegetables, salt, turmeric powder, garam masala powder and stir fry well for another 2-3 minutes. Add about 6 cups of water, cover and let it simmer. Once the water is boiling, add the lentils and rice and simmer for 25 minutes or till the rice is cooked. Once in a while, mix the veggies and rice well and mash it as you cook. The more you mash them all together, the more tasty it till be. Once all of the veggies and rice is well mashed and is cooked through, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve hot with spiced yogurt(Kadhi).
Pressure cooker: Follow almost the same method but instead of waiting till the veggies are cooked, add rice and lentils and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
Rice Cooker: Cook till stir frying the vegetables in a pan. In the rice cooker, add water, rice and lentils and transfer the stir fried vegetables to the rice cooker. Cover and let it cook like normal rice.
Slow cooker: Stir fry the vegetables in the pan, transfer the rice, lentils and the vegetables to the slow cooker. Add atleast 8 cups of water (slow cooker needs more water than a rice cooker), set it on high (3 hours) or low(8 hours) for the rice to cook.
Cooking with Fenugreek Seeds:
Appalam Vathakozhambu (Poppadams in spicy tamarind sauce)
Can you cook without any vegetable to make a sauce? That too with poppadams? Sure you can. The simplest of all sauces in South Indian cooking, a favorite for summer season to have with yogurt rice.
Poppadams (about 14 each)
Green chilies- 2 each
Red Chilies- 2 each
Curry Leaves- 5
Tamarind- 1 small lemon size
Red Chili Powder- 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder- 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds- 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds- 1/2 tsp
Chana dal- 1 tsp
Asafoetida- 2 pinches
Salt- to taste
Gingerly oil- 4 tbsp (You can also use light olive oil)
Rice flour- 1 tbsp
To be ground to a powder
Coriander seeds- 1.5 tsp
Chana dal- 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds- 1/4 tsp
Soak the tamarind in about 200 ml of hot water. You can also substitute 1/4 tsp of tamarind paste for this. Squeeze out the juice from the tamarind, add another 100 ml of water, extract the juice again, filter and discard the pulp.
Roughly break the poppadams into two. Slit green chilies lengthwise.
Heat oil in a thick bottomed vessel(kadai) and add hing and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add chana dhal, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves ,red chilies and green chilies. Stir fry for a minute. Add the poppadams and salt and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add turmeric powder, red chili powder and stir fry till the raw smell of the red chili powder disappears.
Pour the 300 ml of tamarind water into the pan and simmer for 15-20minutes(tiill poppadams are tender). The tamarind water should have reduced to at least 1/2 of its original volume.
In the mean time, toast(dry fry) the coriander seeds,red chilies, chana dal, fenugreek seeds to a golden brown color. Cool and grind to a fine powder. This powder is my version of the vathakozhambu powders sold in stores. I grind it fresh, but you can also sprinkle some store bought vathakozhambu powder if you want.
In a bowl, mix about 3 tbsp of water and rice flour into a thick paste. Add the ground powder to this paste and add these to the boiling kozhambu. Stir well to avoid any lumps.
The Methi Khichdi is my entry for Yasmeen Health Nut’s Bitter- Better Health Event.