Fingerling Potatoes with Fenugreek

I came across this intriguing recipe while browsing through Dhivya’s massive Potato Fe(a)st Event atDK’s Culinary Bazaar earlier this month. It came from Eskay at A Bon Vivant’s Chow Chronicle and she called it Fenugreek’ed Potatoes, named after the defining herb in the recipe. Fenugreek is used as both a spice and an herb. As a spice, it’s available as triangular, amber-colored seeds prized for its distinct bitterness. Along with turmeric, it adds most of the defining color and flavor to commercial “curry powders.”

As an herb, it can be found in both fresh and dried forms at specialty Indian markets. I’ve seen fenugreek seeds both bottled and sold by the ounce at health food stores here and on the Mainland, but not the leaves. Even at specialty stores, the fresh leaves can be hard to come by unless the shop caters to a sizable Indian population. However the dried form, called Kasoori Methi, is usually on the shelves. Dried methi leaves have a pleasing clean, minty, and almost astringent aroma. When fried lightly in hot oil, as in this recipe, it becomes nutty and smoky. The amazing change in character is reminiscent of the transformation of a fresh green jalapeno pepper to a smoky chipotle.

I had only used kasuri methi in a handful of recipes, and they were usually part of a large mix of other spices and herbs, so I really could not have told you what fenugreek leaves on their own tasted like. Eskay’s recipe really stood out because it highlighted the flavor of fenugreek. I had some dried methi leaves (or so I thought), and we had just scored a bag of fingerling potatoes, so it seemed like a perfect time to try this! I first attempted to make this last week as a side for some ribs, but found that my poorly-secured bag of methi leaves had become infested with bugs. Ick! Luckily we had a chance to drive through the university district and stop by the India Market to stock up on some staples. I passed it at least five times on the shelf because the new box was spelled differently (“Qasuri Methi” — it might also be spelled “Kasuri”), but finally realized what I was seeing.

This was part of our Easter Sunday meal with Lamb Rib Chops & Lentils Catalane, steamed asparagus, and a cucumber and radish raita (yogurt salad). The earthy, smoked flavors worked surprisingly well with the sunny flavors of the lamb and lentils. In fact, the lentils and potatoes complemented each other so well I couldn’t resist making a grilled sandwich with them: whole wheat bread, garlic mayo on the potato side, Kasoori Methi Potatoes, and Lentils Catalane, grilled with olive oil = Heaven!

One note: I cut larger potatoes down to the size of the smallest ones for even cooking, and found the cut ones had the added bonus of absorbing more of the spice flavors (no surprise). If you prefer skin-on whole potatoes, you may want to cut or at least score the potatoes after steaming, but before frying, to allow the spices to reach the buttery potato interior.

We’ve grown to really love tangy, sour flavors — whether it’s tamarind in curries; powdered sumac on grilled meats; wild lime leaves in Laotian stews; or dried whole limes in Persian stews. If you enjoy any of these flavors, don’t skip the sprinkling of amchoor powder in the first step.

KASOORI METHI POTATOES
(adapted from Eskay’s Fenugreek’ed Potatoes)

2 lb. fingerling potatoes
1/2-1 tsp. amchoor, aka dried green mango powder (optional)
1 tsp. sea salt

Scrub well, and cut larger potatoes in halves or thirds. Steam or boil potatoes until just cooked. Peel potatoes, if desired (we prefer the skins on). Combine amchoor and salt, then liberally season potatoes while still warm. (If not using amchoor, season to taste with sea salt.) Keep aside.

2 tsp. coriander seed
1 tsp. cumin seed

In a mortar, grind together coriander and cumin seeds to make a fine powder.

3 TBL. olive oil
5 TBL. kasoori methi
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or Aleppo)
sea salt

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add spices, cayenne, and methi leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add potatoes and stir through to coat with leaves and spices. Cover, reduce heat and cook together for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered until serving.

For a vegetarian meal, Eskay recommends rice or rotis, and a dal (see earlier posts: Tarka Dal orMung Bean & Gourd Stew). We found it a perfect accompaniment to grilled lamb, as well as a hearty sandwich filling with lentils.

UPDATE: I was delighted to see lavaterra in Germany try this recipe as part of a vegetarian meal, along with a spring salad. You can see her version, and get the recipe auf Deutsch, “Kartoffeln mit Kasoori Methi