Indian Cooking – Mystery Edition

It’s been five weeks since I started on my Indian Cooking adventure. How time flies!

For this week’s lesson I had to hunt for something I’ve never used before. At least, I’ve never used it in it’s green form. I needed fresh fenugreek leaves. I am familiar with dried fenugreek (aka kasoori methi) which provides the distinctive aroma in Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala.

Fresh fenugreek is new to me but apparently common in Indian kitchens. My teacher Chef, was confident in saying “All Indian grocers stock fresh fenugreek!”

Silly me for thinking they’d stock and label it.

In the fresh produce section, I found this packet of leaves. I thought it looked like the leaves on the Kasoori Methi box. The grocery label wasn’t helpful. As before, it simply said ‘VEGETABLE’.

I looked around for someone who would know. Not a store employee obviously but maybe one of the many shoppers strolling by. One guy paused to look at curry leaves … which coincidentally, were placed right beside the mystery vegetable .. and also labelled ‘VEGETABLE’.

I waved a packet at him said, “IS THIS FRESH FENUGREEK?”

He gave a definite NO and looked around in a panic. Was he looking for a quick getaway or was he looking for the real fenugreek? When I looked where he was looking, he quickly sidled away.

Eventually, I found the fresh fenugreek in another part of the store. It was sitting with the parsleys and mints and labelled “METHI LEAF’. This is what it looked like.

I will use the fenugreek in a flatbread called Lachcha Methi Paratha. Flatbreads have been my bugaboo in Indian cookery. Despite being a relatively competent bread baker, my flatbreads have been so-so. I blame it on recipes written like this.

‘Mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and enough water to make a soft dough.’

They were clearly written by a Cook and not a Baker. The issue was that the ingredient list didn’t specify how much water to use. It said ‘Water, as required.’

As any Baker knows, the ratio of water to flour is hugely significant in bread.

I was wearing my Cook’s hat when I made my first batch of paratha. It was hard, dry and bland. I graded myself an ‘E’ for Effort.

For my second try, I put aside my Cook’s hat and did some Baker’s math. The second batch of parathas was much improved; softer, chewier, tastier. I’m keeping my finger crossed and my Baker’s hat on, for the third batch. I will let you know how they turn out.

In the meantime, the mystery vegetable haunts me. Do you know what it is?

I will ask Chef in my next class and let you know too.

28 Comments

  1. Such different foods that it must be fun experimenting. Baking bread is really your thing isn’t it? I have a favourite pastry recipe that says water as required. That is easier to determine when it is the right quantity. Can’t wait for the follow up post on paratha

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    1. Baking bread was the reason I started at the college years ago. Along the way I started taking cooking classes to widen my range. But yes, I have a bit of experience with yeast leavened breads.
      Flatbreads are new to me but I’m hoping that I’ll be more successful there than I’ve been with pastry. I make terrible pastry too!

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  2. Hi Sandy .. welcome to the intricacies of Indian cooking. I wish I was in Toronto to invite you for Methi Parathas, my fav. It does take some tries to get a perfect rounded stuffed paratha. You are doing great πŸ‘

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    1. One day!

      I actually went out a bought some store made methi paratha, just so I had an idea what to aim for. I bet your homemade paratha taste even better. It’s one of the disadvantages of doing these classes online. I don’t get to taste the real thing made by Chef in class.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. First of all, many congrats on trying the paratha, which isn’t an easy task for the beginners. And about the water-flour ratio for paratha, it comes with the practice. Lots and lots of practice. I’m having this feeling that your #6th or #7th attempt would be amazing πŸ™‚

    And is this a common practice in grocery stores there to label all leaves and herbs as vegetable? This is downright disrespect!

    As for the kasuri meethi leaves, we normally use the powder, not the actual leaves in most of the dishes. In my home, we dry them completely, after which we mince them.

    But we normally don’t use it in paratha. We do make mashed potato filled paratha and boiled pulses filled paratha but haven’t used kasuri meeth.

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    1. Good to know that I’m only 4 trys away from being amazing. I will have to halve my recipes to make it quicker!

      One of the things I’ve learnt is that different folks in different parts of India use the same ingredients differently. I found a similar recipe for Punjabi Methi Ke Parathe, so maybe that’s the difference?

      Thanks for your encouragement Hammad. Glad to hear from you πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    1. … added to which is their use of many different herbs and spices. It can be overwhelming. I remember my panic when I saw the ingredient list for Tikki Masala — it was over 30 items long!

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  4. Hi, Sandy – I am loving your culinary adventures (and remain impressed that you are able to source unique ingredients). I took a screenshot of your ‘mystery vegetable’ and popped it into Google Images. Google suggested that it might be Uva Ursi leaves. They are traditionally used as medicine, especially to reduce bacteria in the urine and also increase urine flow. If this is the case, perhaps that’s why the gentleman in the store ran away screaming! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

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