The recipe for today is actually a product of my experimentation and lack of having the required ingredient. Last year, around this time, a colleague of mine introduced me to ‘Methi Matar Malai’ (fresh fenugreek leaves and green peas in a cream sauce). She brought this dish one day to work for her lunch and seriously, you could smell the aroma of her tiffin wafting all around the place. I still remember it. I could totally smell the fenugreek and the sweetness in the creamy sauce. Or, maybe it is only my imagination. LOL
She said, back home (Punjab, India) they would make several fresh fenugreek dishes during the winter months and this particular dish was her all-time favourite. I do remember my mom getting fresh fenugreek leaves from the market too, she would sort the leaves from the stems and make traditional Kerala food or sometimes use it in ‘sabzis’ (sautéed veggies) and stuff but we never had creamy rich preparations such as this dish. Come to think of it, my mom hardly ever used fresh cream in any of her cooking!
So, coming back to the dish of the day, I had initially planned to make the original ‘Matar’ (fresh peas) version but halfway into the cooking, I realised that I don’t have enough fresh peas to make it. So, I quickly looked through the fridge and spotted a pack of button mushrooms and thought, why not add some quartered mushrooms and cook this dish. I mean how bad can this be?! It anyway made more sense than stopping midway and saving the base to make the dish another time, and then starting another dish from scratch. So, I quickly clean and quartered the mushrooms and added it to the curry and let me tell you, I am happy I did.
This curry really brings out the bitterness of the fenugreek leaves but in a very subtle way. In no way, will this shock the palette of someone who isn’t used to bitterness in their food. There are cashews, few selected spices and some fresh cream that make the sauce creamy. To finish the dish I crushed dry fenugreek leaves between my palms and sprinkled it on the dish. That’s all the garnish this dish really needs.
Here’s the recipe.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- Fresh Fenugreek leaves (Methi)- 2 handfuls of just leaves
- Button mushrooms- 200 grams, cleaned well and cut into quarters
- Onion -1 medium size
- Ginger – ½ inch piece
- Cashews- 10-12 broken pieces
- Milk- 1/2- 3/4 cup
- Green chilli- 1 nos
- Whole black pepper- ½ tsp (optional)
- Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
- Garam masala- ½ tsp
- Green cardamom- 3-4 nos
- Black cardamom- 1 nos
- Mace- 2-3 strands of the spice (no power)
- Fresh cream- 1/2-3/4 cup. (use more or less, as per preference)
- Salt- as per taste
- Butter/oil- 2 tbsp. to cook (I suggest using butter)
- Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek)- ½ tsp
- Honey- 1 tbsp (you can use sugar or jaggery as well)
- Preparing the fenugreek-
- Remove the fenugreek leaves from the stem and wash under cold water 2-3 times or until there is no residue of dirt.
- Place the leaves in a bowl and add a pinch of salt and gently give it a mix and set aside for 5-10 minutes. The salt in this step will help the leaves to release some of its water and reduce the bitterness in the fenugreek leaves. Squeeze out all the water from the fenugreek leaves and set aside.
- If you want it to be even less bitter then after the initial squeezing of the fenugreek leaves, chop the leaves finely and squeeze it once more. No need to add more salt in this step.
- In a blender, add the roughly chopped onion, cashews, green chilli, ginger, black pepper corns, a pinch of salt, 2 green cardamom pods and a splash of water. Blend the mixture till you get a roughly smooth mixture.
- Place a saucepan on medium heat and add the butter. When the butter melts, add the cumin, remaining 2 green cardamoms, black cardamom and the mace strands and give it a stir. Fry for 30 seconds.
- Add the blended mixture to the sauce pan and stir it well. Be careful, as there will be a bit of splutter when you add the mixture to the pan. Cook this mixture for 3-4 minutes on medium to high heat or until you see the onions starting to cook. Cover and cook on medium heat for another 4-5 minutes, stirring the mixture to avoid it from sticking to the pan. If it starts sticking to the pan but it doesnt start browning, add a few splashes of water and try to cook the onion fully.
- Once when you think the onions have lost the raw flavour add the milk and stir well. This will further mellow the flavour of the onions and give the gravy base a little it of creaminess. Keep cooking it till the gravy gets thick and adjust the heat to make sure it doesnt burn.
- When the mixture appears clumpy, it means that the mixture is losing its moisture and is beginning to fry. Fry for 1-2 minutes and when you see oil oozing from the sides, add the mushrooms and season with a pinch of salt. Mix well. fry for a minute.
- Squeeze out any of the excess water from the fenugreek leaves and add to the pan. Mix the leaves well. At this point they will look a bit wilted and that’s great, it’s how it should look. Fry for 1-2 minutes.
- Lower the heat and add a splash of water/milk and cook the mixture covered for 1-2 minutes. Once the mushrooms and fenugreek leaves are cooked add the garam masala and fresh cream. Mix well cook for 1 minute. We don’t want to continue cooking at this point as the cream may separate in the dish.
- Add and mix the honey to the gravy and crush the dried fenugreek leaves between your palms and sprinkle on the dish. Done!
I love having this dish with Naan or roti. You can serve it as a side dish to a meal too, if you like.
One thing that I realised while eating this curry was that the cashews when blended don’t completely blend. There may be some slightly bigger pieces and when they cook in the curry, there is a beautiful texture to it along with the sweet nutty taste!
Please try out this dish and let me know how you like it!