Introduction to multi talented bitter seeds!

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Marrying into a Gujarati family has its own advantages as I was fortunate enough to learn almost immediately after my marriage to Alyona. They have the knack of churning the most delicious things out of unexpected ingredients. Like Methi Laddoo. I wouldn’t have believed that these bitter tasting seeds of fenugreek can be made into such tasty laddoos. These are made during the winter months as they are considered to be beneficial during the cold weather and leafy greens of methi are available a plenty. That immediately brings me to the dish of methi aloo ! The way we Punjabis make it is different from Alyona’s recipe. I do not wish to repeat my recipe but Alyona first boils large potatoes and uses them without peel properly sautéed with finely chopped fresh methi. And then she also uses methi in the divinely thin, slightly gur-sweetened methi theplas! 

Out of all the spices, fenugreek seeds are perhaps the most scarcely used. Lots of people have either not heard of them or haven’t had a chance to taste them or don’t know how to use them. 

Fenugreek seeds come from the plant family of Fabecea. They are used as a spice and its leaves as herb, and when used they alter both the taste and flavour of the dish they are added to.

It is here in India that most of the fenugreek seeds are grown and exported. However, they can be grown anywhere as they flourish in any type of climate. 

Fenugreek seeds are considered very healthy and used as a remedy for many ailments - sore throats, rashes, pains, diabetes etc. being some of them. For diabetics especially, it has been found that proper doses given regularly can help reduce hyperglycemia. It is also considered good for lactating women as it has been found that regular consumption of fenugreek seeds by the woman increases milk production.

Fenugreek seeds when sprouted, have a slight pungent-sweet flavour and can be used in salads. They should be lightly dry roasted before using for this way it not only enhances the flavour but also reduces the bitterness of the spice. Methidana is also a food flavoring in bhindi sabzi, pumpkin sabzi, Gujarati kadhi as also the tur ki dal. Sprouted methidana makes an excellent dry preparation that is enjoyed with thin paranthas. And who can overlook the pickles that use the strong taste of methidana extensively?

It can also be used to cure constipation as it is a powerful expectorant. It can also be used as herbal infusion to break up respiratory congestion.

It also has cosmetic properties. When ground fenugreek seeds are applied to the scalp it can not only cure dandruff, but also tone up the hair and make it silky and shiny. Fenugreek seed paste can also be used as a face pack as it helps to tone the skin and cure acne.

But here I would like to tell you that you have to exercise some caution and not use them indiscreetly. 

They are known to cause allergic reaction sometimes, such as swelling of the face, lips or tongue in which case you should see your doctor immediately. It is also known to change both colour and smell of urine but is not harmful.

Pregnant women especially should not take fenugreek in any form. Traditionally fenugreek has been used to stimulate labour though there is no proof whether it is effective. But should fenugreek stimulate uterine contractions, it could cause preterm labour or miscarriage, therefore it is best avoided.

Because of its high fiber content, it should not be used if you are on any kind of medication as it can affect the absorption of other drugs.

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.