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Fenugreek – a classic spice in Asian cuisine

Fenugreek is an important spice in Asian and especially Indian cuisine. The small seeds are included in many spice mixes and often in the curry powder. They can both enhance and mitigate the flavour of other ingredients. Fenugreek can also be sued on its own to add its subtle flavour to lamb, fish, stews, lentils and Indian chutneys. In South Tyrol fenugreek seeds are used to flavour some types of cheese and bread. In the orient, the delicate leaves of the plant are eaten raw in salads or steamed as a vegetable dish. Fenugreek has long been known in medicine as well. Among other things, it is thought to boost appetite and to lower cholesterol levels.

Family, origin and appearance

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an herbaceous plant from the Fabaceae family. It probably originated in Persia and Egypt. Today it is grown in other countries like Morocco and India. The seeds grow in longish pods, which each contain about 20 small, oblong light brown seeds. They are picked when ripe and then dried.

Cooking with fenugreek seed

Raw fenugreek seeds taste slightly bitter and peppery, because of their content of sotolone and essential oils. Before you add them to a dish, fenugreek seeds should be lightly roasted without fat in a non-stick pan. This turns them slightly darker and they develop a caramel-like, slightly nutty flavour. Roast a new batch of seeds each time you want to cook with them.

Buying fenugreek

If you want to try this exotic spice, you’ll find it as whole seeds, dried leaves or as ground spice in specialist Asian and natural food stores, and in well-stocked supermarkets. Buy only small quantities, as the aroma deteriorates over time. Keep the seeds in a tightly fitting container in a cool, dry place. The powder gives a very intensive flavour, so use it sparingly.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de