Methi known as fenugreek in English is a pungent herb and seed used widely in Indian cooking from north to the south, east to the west. You can find it in snacks like khakhra and thepla from Gujarat, in sarson da saag, missi roti, methi paratha and makki methi ki roti among many other recipes from Punjab, in ventheya keerai varai from Tamil Nadu, pakore – chickpea/gram flour firtters from all over the country and countless other recipes that I cannot list and perhaps do not even know of. Suffice to say it’s something we all enjoy! Aloo methi or methi aloo is one such recipe that is cooked often in the winter months when fresh methi is easily available. I hope you make it. Enjoy it with warm parathas or part of an ensemble meal, anytime.
Winter produce makes for a happy picture!
Getting my hands on fresh produce any time of the year is always a joyful moment. Even better when I find a wide variety of vegetables, especially those between seasons. Such was one haul in November 2021 when I found really good, fresh methi. Methi, while grown in both major crop cycles – Rabi and Kharif – in India is mostly a winter crop (Rabi). A fast growing herb it is harvested by cutting close to the ground or pulling out the whole plant with the root. This makes the task of cleaning methi quite a production. While time consuming, it is worth the effort.
Cleaning methi – three water baths, at the least
The easiest way to clean any leafy vegetable is to put it through three or four water baths. But before you begin cut off the roots, trim the stems. Most of the times when using methi Indian cooks pluck leaves and throw away the stem except maybe some tender shoots. I chose to trim off all the roots and any hardy stems and used the remaining herb. Be sure to pick out any rotting and overly bruised leaves while you move methi from one water bath to another.
Set up a production line of water baths for cleaning methi
I set up three large bowls of water for the water baths and gave the leaves a final rinse under running water after the third bath was done. Or, you could also use just one bowl where you first wash the methi and skim the leaves as they float to the surface and drain them in a colander. Then pour out the dirty water – dust will settle at the bottom of the bowl. Rinse to remove any remaining dirt and fill it again for the second bath. Repeat a third time or until the water is clear after rinsing leaves. That is the only sure shot way of knowing if you’ve gotten rid of all the dust. It is really important to clean the leaves well otherwise you’ll get what we often called ”kir’k” in your mouth, i.e. crunchy or grainy dirt in your mouth while eating. I am not sure about the origin of the term, but it is quite commonly used in our Punjabi household.
Prep time: 20 minutes which including washing the leaves
Cooking time ~ 20 minutes
You’ll need a kadhai/wok/deep frying pan
Ingredients for Methi Aloo
- Aloo/Potatoes 4-5, washed, peeled and cubed
- Fresh Methi/Fenugreek** ~ 2 cups, washed and chopped (you’ll need ~ 2 bunches/ 500 gm/1 lb to get 2 cups)
- Olive Oil ~ 3 tbsp
- Jeera/Cumin seeds ~ 1 tsp
- Lehsun/Garlic 3-4 cloves, crushed and chopped
- Adrak/Ginger 1 inch piece, chopped
- Hari mirch/Green chillies 4-5, chopped
- Namak/Salt to taste
- Haldi/Turmeric ~ 1/2 tsp
- Dhania/Coriander powder ~ 1/2 to 1 tsp
- Black pepper to taste
- Garam masala – optional
**If you cannot find fresh methi try looking for frozen methi in an Indian store near you or online. It is already clean and chopped which will save you a lot of time! Also a good way to enjoy methi throughout the year.
Freez some methi!
If you can lay your hands on fresh methi, go through this cleaning process once. It’s enjoyable in its own way and the fruits of one’s labor are always sweet. Use what you need right away and freeze the rest. Wring out extra water, or lay out the methi on kitchen towels to soak it up. Then chop and transfer to clear zip lock bags and freeze. Use as needed. I’ve done this several times and its helped me put together saag or methi aloo really quickly.
How to cook Methi Aloo
This sabzi is a quick stir fry with a short period of steaming. For the time invested, it yields a delicious dish!
First, the tadka and aloo
Put a kadhai/wok/frying pan on medium high heat. Add oil to the pan and let it heat up. Do not smoke the oil. As soon as you see some swirling on the surface it is ready. You could also test by adding a few cumin seeds. If they splutter right away, the oil is hot enough. Add all the jeera/cumin and ginger and garlic. Sauté for a minute or so until fragrant. Do not brown them right now, they will brown as the potatoes fry. Next, add all the potatoes and fry on medium heat until they are brown and crisp around the edges. It is normal for some stickage to occur. The best way to minimize this is to keep turning the potatoes.
Bringing it all together
Spice potatoes with all the ground spices in ingredients’ list except garam masala and black pepper, if using, and add green chilies. Turn and mix well to coat evenly. Finally, add all the chopped methi. Lower the heat and mix well. Cook covered on low heat for a few minutes. Methi leaves will turn a bright green color, just like leaves that have been blanched. They are almost done cooking. Now all that’s left is to evaporate all the moisture that methi would’ve released.
Tweak texture to your liking – I enjoy a sookhi/dry sabzi!
I do not like soggy aloo methi. So I spend a few minutes cooking it uncovered on medium high heat while turning the sabzi constantly. This helps evaporate as much moisture as possible, fast. When sufficiently sautéd turn off the heat, add garam masla and black pepper – if you plan to use them. Mix well and serve! But, if you prefer a slightly mushy sabzi, then cook covered and add a sprinkle of water if necessary. Texture can be altered to your liking.
Methi Aloo makes for a tasty accompaniment with all flatbreads
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Methi Aloo – Potatoes with Fresh Fenugreek
- Kadhai/wok/Frying Pan with lid
- 4-5 Aloo/Potatoes washed, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups Methi/fresh fenugreek washed and chopped (start with 2 bunches/1 pound methi to get 2 cups clean methi)
- 3 tbsp Olive oil or any mild cooking oil like canola, sunflower
- 1 tsp Jeera/Cumin
- 3-4 cloves Lehsun/Garlic smashed, peeled and chopped
- One 1" piece Adrak/Ginger cleaned and chopped
- 2-3 Hari Mirch/Green Chillies thai chillies, more for a spicier sabzi
- Namak/Salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp Haldi/Turmeric
- 1/2 to 1 tsp Dhania/Coriander powder
- Black pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp Garam masala optional
Clean methi in water baths
- Before you begin cut off the roots and trim the stems. Set up three large bowls of water for water baths and give the leaves a final rinse under running water after the third bath. Or, use just one bowl where you first wash the methi, skim the leaves as they float to the surface to drain them in a colander. Then pour out the dirty water and replace it with clean water. Repeating the process thrice. Read full description above. Pick out any rotting and bruised leaves while you move methi from one water bath to another.
- Once clean, drain and then finely chop methi. Keep aside until needed.
Cooking Aloo Methi
- Put a kadhai/wok/frying pan on medium high heat. Add oil to the pan and let it heat up. Add jeera/cumin and ginger and garlic. Sauté for a minute or so until fragrant. Do not brown.
- Next, add all the potatoes and fry on medium heat until they are brown and crisp around the edges. Keep turning the potatoes to reduce stockage to the bottom.
- Spice potatoes with all the ground spices in ingredients list except garam masala and pepper (if using) and add green chilies. Turn and mix well to coat evenly.
- Finally, add all the chopped methi. Lower heat and mix well. Cook covered on low heat for a few minutes. Methi leaves will turn a bright green color, just like leaves that have been blanched. They are almost done cooking. Now all that’s left is to evaporate all the moisture that methi would’ve released.
- Soggy aloo methi is no fun. So spend a few minutes cooking it uncovered on medium high heat while turning the sabzi constantly. This will evaporate most of the moisture, fast.
- At the end add garam masala and black pepper, if using. Turn and mix well. Turn off the heat and serve.