Ingredient Spotlight – Fenugreek Leaves

Chicken with vegetables in a thick and savory sauce

For a while now I’ve been challenging myself to try new ingredients. I love world cuisine, but like many self-taught home cooks, sometimes I get intimidated by trying to create or recreate wonderful dishes I’ve had served to me by native cooks. Two years ago, my friend took myself and my husband to an Indian restaurant that I’d never been to before. They had this wonderful dish of murg methi (chicken with fenugreek leaves in a curry-like sauce) that was quite literally one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my life. The flavor profile was bold but balanced and, while I’m sure it was horrible for me it tasted devine.

A few months ago, I picked up some dried methi leaves. They have been sitting in my spice cabinet all this time. I picked them up after chatting with my friend about that memorable dish. All three of us (she myself and my husband) remember it quite fondly. I had ordered it but the three of us had gobbled it up together and barely even touched the other two dishes, although to be fair, they were very tasty too. I told her I was dying to go back and eat it again and that we should all go back together. Sadly, she told me she had gone back a few times over the past few years. Perhaps they changed cooks or management, but she informed me that she had been very disappointed in the dish since.

I realized that it was up to me to find a way to make myself a substitute. Yesterday evening, I got in the kitchen and decided to start throwing things together. True to my fashion, I also promised myself that I would try to create a dish that would likely be lower in fat and healthier than restaurant food. Into the pot, I started throwing in spices and ingredients. What I got at the end… a very flavorful and filling dish that satisfied my tastebuds, my stomach, and my waistline. It isn’t the dish from the restaurant, but it is something that I’m proud to say that I have created and will be making again and again.

The ingredient profile is not authentic, but I used what I had on hand, and hey, I was making it up on the fly with only a very basic knowledge of Indian cooking. You can substitute other veg for what I used. Some peas and potatoes would go nicely. Chicken or a mild tasting white fish would be good protein substitutions. I chose to use olive oil instead of the traditional butter or ghee and used less oil than I believe most Indian cooks would have used in a similar manner. I also chose to use no cream but 2% milk and 2% greek yogurt instead of whole milk yogurt. This will cut down on the fat and calories. In order to thicken the dish a little bit more, I used a slurry of whole wheat flour and water. While I do not believe that this is a method used in Indian cooking, it produced a thickened sauce with a silky mouth feel without having to resort to using more fat or cream.

*note: this dish was good for dinner but phenomenal the next day. This is a good candidate for a dish to make the day before a dinner party. Whip it out and warm it at the last minute and impress your guests with your clean kitchen and un-frazzled demeanor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion – diced small
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic – finely minced
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger – peeled and very finely minced (or grated)
  • 1.5 Tbs mustard seeds – whole
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup dried fenugreek leaves
  • 2 ribs celery – diced
  • 2 carrots – diced
  • 1 package turkey tenderloins (about 1.5 lbs) – cut into large bite sized pieces
  • 2 tsp kashmiri garam masala (you can use regular if you prefer)
  • 2 tsp good quality turmeric
  • palm sized piece of cauliflower – chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup 1% or 2% milk
  • 1 cup 2% plain greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp mango powder (optional)
  • chili (cayenne) powder – to taste
  • 1.5 to 2 Tbs whole wheat flour added to an equal amount of water to form a slurry

Directions:

  1. In a non-stick pot, heat the olive oil to medium or medium high heat and add the mustard seeds. When they begin to sputter and pop add the garlic and ginger. Fry for a few minutes and then add the onion, cooking until it takes on a little color and starts to soften. Add the celery and carrots and cook for another minute or two until the begin to soften. Add the turkey, a good pinch of salt and pepper, the garam masala and turmeric. Cook the meat for a few minutes until the outside cooks.
  2. Add the milk, methi leaves and cauliflower. Bring up to a low boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cover for 5-7 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Add the yogurt and mango powder. Stir it and give it a taste. Add more salt and pepper as needed and then add hot pepper powder to your preference. Add the slurry and then slowly bring everything up to a low boil and cook until the thickened (about 5 minutes).
  3. Adjust any seasoning as you feel. The amounts I gave here are approximations. I kind of added a bit here and there as I was cooking since this was an experiment. I think I may have added more yogurt and then added the mango powder to add a little bit more tang. Also, because my veg wasn’t particularly sweet (if you add peas other sweet veg you may not have to) so I added a small pinch of evaporated cane juice to balance everything.
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