While grocery shopping this weekend, I found an inviting pack of methi dal (coarsely ground fenugreek seeds, also called ‘methi kuria’) in the store and, having never used fenugreek in this form before, was intrigued. I love fresh fenugreek leaves and kasoori methi but am not so enthused about the whole seeds that are used for tempering (tadka) in Indian dishes. I like their flavor as long as it is diffused, not the experience of biting into them. This is how I do my tadka with whole methi seeds: add a few seeds to the hot oil and when they turn color, pick them out.
I guessed methi kuria would resolve this problem – since the seeds are ground, the bitterness would get spread out just the way I want it. I bought the spice pack and used it first thing in this recipe with baby potatoes. The guess proved right.
Baby potatoes are a perennial favorite with me, I could have them boiled with salt and pepper and call it an immensely satisfying meal. Cooked with this lovely onion-fenugreek masala, they tasted so good I ate up enough for three in one meal.
- Baby potatoes – 20
- Coriander leaves – for garnishing
- Tamarind – ball of 1-inch diameter, adjust to taste
- Coriander powder – 1 tablespoon
- Cumin powder – 1 teaspoon
- Red chilly powder – 1/2 teaspoon
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 teaspoon
- Salt – 1 teaspoon, adjust to taste
- Onions – 3
- Garlic – 4 cloves
- Ginger – 1/2 inch stick
- Nigella seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Methi kuria/dal (coarsely ground fenugreek seeds) – 1 teaspoon
- Dry red chillies – 3
- Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Oil – 1 tablespoon for the masala, 1 teaspoon for the potatoes
In the picture above: Baby potatoes, a ball of tamarind, nigella seeds, dry red chillies, cracked fenugreek seeds.
1. Cooking the potatoes
Pressure cook baby potatoes till one whistle. Let the pressure release naturally, then remove the potatoes onto a plate. Let them cool to room temperature. Peel and with the prongs of a fork or a toothpick, prick several holes through each baby potato.
Heat a wide non-stick pan with a few drops of oil drizzled on it. Place the baby potatoes on the pan in a single layer and cook them on medium flame, turning them around every other minute, till they turn golden evenly. This should take 10 minutes or so. While the potatoes are getting done, the masala can be made in parallel.
2. Making the masala
Grind onions, ginger and garlic to paste.
Soak the tamarind in two tablespoons of water for 30 minutes. Extract the pulp and discard the seeds.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a kadhai to smoking point. On low flame, add mustard seeds and when the splutter, immediately add methi dal, nigella seeds and dry red chillies. When the methi dal turns a deeper color (this will take just a few seconds), add the onion paste. Cook on medium-high flame, stirring occasionally, till the onion paste turns golden.
Mix coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and red chilly powder along with salt. Let the dry spices cook for two minutes taking care to avoid burning, then add tamarind pulp, a few tablespoons of water and let it bubble for two minutes.
3. Putting it all together
Transfer the roasted baby potatoes into the masala mix. Cook covered on medium flame, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or till the masala has reached a thick consistency and flavored the potatoes.
Let it stand for 20 minutes covered to allow the flavors to blend. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve with chapatis/parathas, salad and yogurt.
Methi dal is a strong spice, a teaspoon in this dish is sufficient to flavor it.