This pebble-like spice can seem a bit intimidating, but get your head round fenugreek and you’ll soon reap the benefits. It’s best known for bitter notes, with a maple-sweetness lurking beneath the surface.
Fenugreek seeds are too hard to grind in a pestle and mortar, but they soften when soaked. It’s why fenugreek is added at the start of a curry – where it benefits from a long-simmer. It's also cultivated in the South Eastern Mediterranean, where recipes often start by soaking fenugreek seeds in water for 6-24 hours. It takes the edge off their bitterness and makes the plump seeds easy to grind – perhaps into a Turkish çemen paste or hilbe spiced dip.
Fenugreek is rarely the lead flavour, unless used to counterbalance other big flavours, as with Pastirma air-dried beef or çemen marinades for game birds and pork in Greek or Turkish dishes. If you’re unsure, start by using a little fenugreek in meat rubs or marinades to introduce an underlying complexity.
India is the largest producer of fenugreek in the world, and it's where we source ours from. It thrives in moderately cool climates, which is why it's mostly grown in the north of the country – and though lots of Indian fenugreek is consumed by the domestic market, ours is some of the fenugreek seeds which are exported.
Fenugreek should be stored in a dark, airtight container, to prevent it from drying out, and to keep it as flavourful as possible. Once soaked and ground, fenugreek will lose its potency very quickly.
Evidence suggests that fenugreek reduces blood glucose in diabetic patients. For more information, click HERE. Fenugreek seeds are often steeped in boiling water for a calming tea which is thought to help digestion. It’s also thought to increase milk flow for breastfeeding mothers. Note, fenugreek is not recommended during pregnancy.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Methi, Trigonella foenum-graecum, Greek clover, shanbalile