One ingredient I look forward to in the late winter and early spring is fresh fenugreek, or methi. The delicate green leaves usually come bundled in a little bouquet, reminiscent of collected green clover. Fenugreek’s pungent aroma likes to linger in the air, but its distinct scent has never been a deterrent from its deliciousness. It is often used to spice up morning flatbreads like parathas, combined with spinach, incorporated into yogurt-based curries, or added to ground meat stews.
In this recipe, I’ve used fenugreek seeds as I was not able to find the fresh leaves. Their stories are similar in that they share the same qualities. Since they are seeds, the scent is a bit more intense, yet I find the aroma is less lingering than when using the leaves. By adjusting the quantity of seeds used, the flavor profile can accommodate personal preference or season.
Fenugreek is commonly known to be heating and supports balanced digestion and absorption of nutrients. Taste-wise, fenugreek seeds are bitter and pungent, and rich in the air, fire, and earth elements. When cooking with these little golden, nugget-shaped seeds, it is important to keep in mind that they are sensitive to the heat. Unlike cumin seeds, which can handle a longer tempering time before they start to burn, fenugreek seeds toast up pretty quickly.
This is a great spring dish for all doshas, especially kapha. The element of fire, or transformation, can help to melt or dry up the mucus-y, wet, cold, and heavy qualities associated with kapha dosha. These qualities tend to build up in the late fall and winter seasons, making spring the perfect time to address them. Adding a bit more heat to the diet using fenugreek helps to counterbalance excess kapha dosha along with promoting comfortable digestion.
Recipe for Creamy Greens with Turmeric & Fenugreek
Total: 30–40 minutes
- 1 small bunch mustard greens including stems, chopped
- 1 bunch red chard including stems, chopped
- 1 pound baby spinach
- 2 ½ tablespoons coconut oil or sunflower oil
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- ¾ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 ½ teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger or ginger paste
- ½ serrano chili, optional
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon mineral salt
- ⅛ cup water
- ½ cup whole milk yogurt
- 1 teaspoon besan or chickpea flour
- Pinch of garam masala, optional
Place a wide bottom pot or sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is warm, add the cumin seeds, stirring to coat them with oil. When they begin to toast, add the fenugreek seeds, coriander powder, ginger, and green chili, and stir gently to make sure they don’t burn. It’s ok if they stick to the bottom of the pan. This step takes about 3–4 minutes.
Once the spices are slightly toasted, add the turmeric, stir once, and then add the water. This will gently deglaze the pot and create steam to help wilt the greens.
Add the chopped greens and stems in batches, covering with a lid between each addition, and then stir before adding the next batch. Continue until all the greens are in the pot. Cook covered for about 10 minutes, or until greens and the stems are tender and the color has transformed from a bright green to a bit of a duller green. Check and stir occasionally to make sure the greens aren’t sticking, and lower the heat to medium-low if needed.
In the meantime, mix the flour, salt, and yogurt together until there are no lumps. When greens and stems are tender, add the yogurt mixture. Stir continuously until the mixture comes to a light simmer. Cover and continue to cook for another 10–15 minutes to meld all the flavors together, stirring occasionally to ensure that greens don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. If the greens are sticking, add a bit more water and lower the heat.
When the dish is done cooking, turn off the heat, uncover, and sprinkle a pinch of garam masala over the greens. Cover for about 1 minute to release the aromatic oil from the garam masala, and then serve.
Notes: This recipe can be adapted to any mixture of greens or made with fresh spinach only. The water content can be increased to make it more like a stew. If you are experiencing pitta imbalances, reduce quantity eaten or opt for more spinach and chard and omit mustard greens. If using fresh fenugreek, ¼–½ cup chopped leaves is a good quantity to begin with and add them to the pot along with the greens. If this is your first time eating mustard greens, you may want to reduce the quantity to ½ a bunch and increase the spinach.
Ways to Enjoy
- Over a slice of sprouted toast with an egg on top—a delicious savory breakfast or brunch.
- In a whole grain wrap with a toasted sesame cabbage slaw and mango chutney.
- As a vegetarian taco with a raita or yogurt based sauce.
- Over a bed of whole grains with a dollop of ghee and a cup of mung dal on the side.
- As a bowl with sweet potatoes or yams, turmeric and red lentil rice, raita, and mango chutney.