As I said in my recent ‘Foodstuffs’ post on Fresh Fenugreek Leaves (Methi), I decided to use the bunch I had just purchased in a loose version of an Indian dish called ‘’Methi Gosht’. ‘This dish is very similar to another Indian curry called ‘Saag Gosht’ (or ‘Palak Gosht’) which uses spinach instead of Fenugreek. I make that dish quite frequently, although I often use beef instead of the traditional lamb, and it is a favorite at our house. I decided that I would also use beef for this particular experiment and, as I will explain below, I make a couple of small departures from the usual Indian method of cooking such dishes…
- 2 lbs. Beef Steak cut into bite size cubes
- 1 tsp. each Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper (not shown)
- 1 Bunch Fenugreek Leaf
- 1 Medium Onion
- 2-inch piece of fresh Ginger
- 1 ½ tbsp. powdered Chili (or more, or less, according to your tolerance)
- 3 tbsp. Vegetable oil (not shown)
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 5 cloves Garlic
- ¼ cup Yoghurt
- 1 tbsp. Turmeric
- 1 tbsp. Coriander seed
- 1 tbsp. Cumin seed
- 1 tbsp. Fennel seed
- 1 tsp. Salt
Toast the Coriander and Cumin seeds separately in a dry pan and then grind them together with the Turmeric, Fennel seed and Salt.
Coarsely chop the Onion and the Ginger and add to a food processor along with the Garlic and powdered Chili. Add a few tablespoons of water and blend to a fine paste.
Coarsely chop the Fenugreek leaves and set aside in a bowl. It is okay to leave some of the smaller, more delicate stems but first strip away the thick, coarse stalks and discard them.
Heat the oil and butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with the salt and pepper and sauté, in the hot fat, adding the cubes in small batches. As the cubes are starting to become brown, pour over the spice blend and continue stirring to flavor the fat and coat the beef.
Next, add the onion mixture and continue stirring until the onion begins to darken and the oil begins to separate out of the sauce. If things are getting a little too dry before the beef is nice and tender, add a few splashes of water to keep everything moist. In traditional Indian cookery, most cooks would actually add the beef after the onion mixture was cooked but I have reversed the order here as I prefer to get a nice carmelization on the beef by dry frying rather than have it steam cook in the moist sauce. If you are using a tougher cut of beef, it may help to add a little extra water, cover the pan, and let the beef simmer over a lower heat for a while. With good quality steak, this step should not be necessary.
Once the beef is tender, add the yoghurt a little at a time and stir over moderate heat until it is almost all incorporated. This is not supposed to be too a heavily sauced dish so at the end of this process you should have a good, thick coating and just a cup or so of extra ‘gravy’. At this point, you can remove the pan from the heat and set the curry aside (letting it cool, even) until you are ready for the final step. If you do elect to do this, though, it is probably best to save chopping the Fenugreek leafs until the last moment so that they maintain their freshness.
When you are ready for the final step, re-warm the beef (if necessary) and add the Fenugreek leaves and stir them in well. Keep stirring until the leaves are tender and wilted but still maintain as much of their bright color as possible. In Indian recipes, the leaves would likely get cooked a little longer but I like the visual appeal and texture of slightly more ‘al dente’ greens. Add a little water if necessary and then spoon into an appropriate dish for serving.
I served the curry over a simple pilaf made with mustard seed, cardamom, safflower threads, and some chopped green pepper stirred in at the last minute. The basic curry was really very good but I have to say that the Fenugreek was a disappointment. There was none of the rich ‘maple’ notes you get with dried fenugreek leaf, and, indeed, the fresh leaves seemed to add not much taste of anything. It is true that the small bunch I added wilted away to not much at all but I really think that even if I doubled the amount it would have made much difference. The leaves provided a little bit of textural interest but beyond that they might as well not have been there. In a future experiment I would like to try cooking the fresh leaves as the main ingredient of a stir-fried side dish but, unfortunately, that will have to wait until they show up in our local store once again…