A member of the legume family, fenugreek is the modern kitchen’s cure for blandness! It is also very versatile being used as both an herb and a spice plus it packs about 30% proteins. One of the oldest cultivated plants indigenous to Asia and southeastern Europe; fenugreek has long been used as a nourishing dietary herb as well as for medicine and as an embalming agent. References to fenugreek have been found in Egyptian tombs as an essential food for the journey to the afterworld and it is still served in Egypt as a popular winter drink in coffee shops. Romans called it “Greek hay”, the meaning of foenum-gracecum, since they imported it from Greece to use as cattle food and Trigonella means “little triangle”, the shape of its small white flowers. Introduced in India by Arab traders, it has also been used there as a yellow dyestuff and as a conditioner for hair.
An annual which grows 2 feet tall, fenugreek has oval-shaped, grey-green leaves that form in triplets and have a spicy odor which persists on your hand after touching it. Its delicate white flowers appear in early summer and develop into long, slender pods containing about 6 flat light brown seeds which ripen in autumn. Pleasant to grow, it succeeds in ordinary garden soil which is well-drained, loves sun and needs lots of water. Pre-soak the seeds for 12 hours in warm water before planting or they may also be used to make sprouts. Plants take about 16 weeks to mature and make an attractive border to the vegetable garden. After harvest at the end of the growing season, leave the roots to decay and release their nitrogen to enrich the soil or simply grow it as a green manure crop.
The young leaves and sprouts are nutritious and aromatic in salads or eaten as vegetables, but the seeds are the source of the spice with a warm and penetrating flavor somewhat like burnt maple that either people love or hate. Use it with caution as too much will cause foods to become bitter. In addition to curries and chutneys, fenugreek will enhance meats, poultry and vegetables although you’ll find few recipes that call for it. A good source of vitamins and minerals, try experimenting with ground fenugreek for a spicy bread or pair it with fish, beans, potatoes or tomatoes. Lightly dry-roasting the seed gives them a nutty, maple-sugar taste for adding to salads or steeping in hot water to make a tea. Because of their high pectin content, fenugreek seeds can be soaked overnight to swell and soften producing a potent jelly that can easily be mixed with other spices to make a curry paste.
A small amount of fenugreek
works well with other spices to make blends
such as curry powder and Indian five-spice powder
HOT FENUGREEK DIP
2Tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2c chopped onion
1Tbs fenugreek seeds
1/8tsp each ground cinnamon, coriander, clove, cumin, paprika and pepper
1/2c chopped fresh cilantro
3 canned plum tomatoes
1Tbs lemon juice
Soak fenugreek seeds in 1/4c water overnight. Heat oil, sauté garlic then add onion. Strain seeds and add with spices and cilantro cooking 3 more mins. Cool slightly, add to food processor, then add remaining ingredients and puree.
1/2tsp each ground pepper, ginger, cardamom, cumin and fenugreek
1/4tsp each ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves and cayenne
Combine and store in air-tight container for up to 1 month. Rub onto meat or poultry and let stand 15 mins or refrigerate up to 4 hrs before grilling.
1 c sugar
1/2 c water
1/4 c rosewater
1/2tsp ground fenugreek
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 c all purpose flour
Bring water & sugar to a boil then add fenugreek & rosewater. In another pan melt butter and add flour to make a paste. Slowly add syrup and blend together. Spread onto a plate, cool, then cut into small serving pieces. Serve with coffee or tea.
that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth,
and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.”