Fenugreek was used by the ancient Egyptians in their embalming process, and in the Eber medical papyrus fenugreek is listed as one of the ingredients used to treat burns. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, thought it a valuable soothing herb, while Dioscorides used it in treating inflammation of the genitals. Now it is used as a tea to promote milk flow for breast-feeding mothers, and research has shown that it may inhibit liver cancer growth, and help in the treatment of diabetes. French researchers also believe it is a good aid to digestion.
The flowers and seeds are used for medicinal purposes, and the leaves are grown in Europe and parts of North Africa for animal feed. It has a long history of being used in this way, as its Latin name, foenum graecum means Greek Hay. However in Pakistan, in the northern Punjab region, the fresh leaves are cooked as saag, sometimes on their own but more often with spinach. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and protein. The leaves are more often used dried (kasuri methi), and added to sauces and other savoury dishes. Often they are dried at home for use later in the year. The young shoots can be eaten raw with watercress as a salad.
Traditionally, fenugreek has been used to promote weight gain in anorexics, to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and soothe gastric disorders. The oil from the seeds is used as a skin softener, and the powdered seeds, when added to yoghurt are used as a hair conditioner in India.
To make fenugreek tea, steep the seeds in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, then boil for another 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover, and leave for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Strain and use 2 or 3 times a day, hot or cold. You need 1 teaspoon seeds per cup of water. It’s a soothing drink for stomach problems, and it calms the nerves. It’s also good for lactation.
You may think that you haven’t tasted fenugreek, but the likelihood is that you have. It’s one of the ground spices normally used in curry powder- that particular smell it has is noticeable and it is used as a substitute for maple syrup, and even for vanilla!
The seeds are fairly easy to come by in Britain, but you’ll probably have to go to an Asian food shop to buy the dry leaves, (kasuri methi) or buy them online. The recipe calls for dried methi (kasuri methi).
FRIED METHI CHILLIES
250gr green chillies (about 3 inches long)
2 medium potatoes
1 cup plain flour
2 tbsps dried fenugreek leaves
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying
Boil potatoes, still in their skins. When cool remove skins and mash to a puree with 1½ tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (methi), cumin seeds and seasonings.
Mix together the flour, 1/2 tbsp methi, thyme and 1tbsp salt on a plate and beat the eggs in a bowl.
Slit the peppers from top to bottom, leaving the stem intact, and remove the seeds.
Stuff the peppers with the potato mixture, then dip them one at a time, in the beaten egg, then roll them in the flour mixture, coating them evenly. Repeat the process once.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the stuffed peppers for 4-5mins over a low heat.
Serve alone or with dips as an appetizer.
This has Taste and is a Treat.