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All’s greek here

Lalita Iyer on the power of the fenugreek leaf.. and seeds.
Hindustan Times | By Lalita Iyer, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2009 04:38 PM IST

There was a time when I thought my mother was into some insider trading as far as methi (fenugreek) seeds went. Whenever I called her with an ailment, she would ask me to consume methi.

She later told me that universally, there were only two classic disorders of the intestine—one that couldn’t hold anything, and the other that couldn’t release anything. In both cases, methi came to the rescue.

Soaked and stirred
In her books, the only difference was in the way they were consumed. For releasing powers, its methi soaked in water and then swallowed, and for retaining powers, it was methi seeds ground, mixed in buttermilk and swallowed. I can’t remember which one was less disgusting, but it would suffice to say that I was repelled by methi for a long time.

Though I never realised that it was often hidden in my curd rice tadka or the ubiquitous sambar powder or assorted powder chutneys that my mother made-and-kept, “For you never know”.

Just a pinch
I also saw my mother throwing in a pinch of the seeds into a dosa batter. “It makes them really soft,” she would assure, when she saw me rolling my eyes in disbelief at the nefarious ways I was being made to consume this condiment. The only thing I could bear was the aloo-methi subzi, which got made every once in a while for our tiffin lunches with chapatis.

Till I entered the magical world of theplas and khakras during my trekking phase, I never realised methi could be a object of deliberate comsumption and did have addictive powers. “Ah!” I thought. “The leaf is less notorious than the seed.” And thus methi began to occupy a happy place in my life. Another revelation was that methi could happily blend with palak and other greens in sai bhaji, which, to my mind is the greatest gift of the Sindhis to vegetarians.

Mucho methi
At a recent brunch, I had this long conversation with a lactating mother, and she held forth on the powers of the methi that aid in lactation, and try as I might, I couldn’t fathom chomping on truckloads of the stuff, even though it would make me a better food-provider for the forthcoming baby.

She also gave me a recipe that I am a bit scared to try, as it involves throwing in a tempering of garlic onto a bed of fresh methi leaves, adding salt, and then eating it (yes!). I asked her if there was something missing, like sautéing perhaps, or adding lemon juice, something? She said no, this was it. Someone please validate it for me (as I will feel like a cow in more ways than one otherwise)

But the day I realised methi was cool was when I tasted this salad at a friend’s Christmas lunch. Since I was the only vegetarian (which I usually am at such dos), the salad was dedicated to me, and it had baby methi happily mingling with pomegranate and other greens in a honey-lemon dressing. I fell in love all over again.

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