• FENUGREEK: PART 2 08 September 2014 | View comments

  •  Blossom has bloomed and fallen, Summer reached dizzy hazy heights, but the unpredictable and inclement conditions of late may have brought about a certain over-familiarity with galoshes, wellingtons, and mackintoshes.
    Curling up with a steaming cup of herbal health certainly promotes an inner glow, and in addition, some tasty warming comfort from the kitchen never goes amiss!
    So, this instalment sees the continuing exploration of all things fenugreek taking a home-spun turn. How to get a flavoursome and fulfilling forkful of fenugreek fandango?
    Look no further, as we bring you a delicious dhal, and a delectable dessert.
    The helter-skelter hubbub of holidays and excursions often call for a combination of quick and easy, and pre-prepared suppers. A dhal seemed just the thing.

    200g Yellow Split Peas
    100g Red Lentils
    Medium onion
    Garlic 6-8 cloves
    4 further cloves sliced.
    1 teaspoon each of fenugreek seeds, cumin - some seeds, some ground, ditto for coriander, madras curry powder, ground turmeric.
    1 unwaxed lemon, cut into wedges
    Around 12 frozen spinach bricks, or one bag of fresh spinach leaves.
    Bunch of Fresh Coriander.
    Begin by simmering both varieties of lentils in water until soft. Set aside.
    Then, sautée onions, lots of crushed garlic, and add fenugreek, cumin, coriander seeds.
    Add the lentils, a little water, some chopped lemon pieces, washed spinach leaves or frozen
    bricks and simmer until the lemon and spinach have cooked and all of the flavours have combined.
    In another pan put the ground spices - coriander, cumin, curry powder, turmeric, and warm under a small flame until toasted very gently,
    and stir the now enticingly aromatic spices into the dhal.
    Then, heat a small amount of oil in a pan, carefully add the garlic slices, and fry until it starting to brown.
    At this point, one can stir in a splash of vinegar, and a teaspoon of spiced mango chutney into the cooked pulse mix, if a hint of sweetness is desired.
    The dhal can be served scattered with the fried garlic pieces, drizzled with the garlic-infused oil, and then topped with roughly chopped coriander leaf.
    This dish is so terribly versatile; it can either be a hearty main weekday meal accompanied by a flatbread to tear, or fluffy aromatic rice, complemented
    by a small refreshing cucumber salad, or it can be set amongst an assortment of dishes for a more celebratory affair.
    The last scrapings of dhal also make a handy and nutritious sandwich filling or toast spread.
    Fenugreek isn't only for use in savoury cuisine, of course, for it finds a place in sweet baking, too. A cake flavoured with fenugreek,
    along with other toasted seeds is a traditional postpartum gift to the mother in some Middle Eastern countries. Of course, given the health benefits of fenugreek,
    along with its galactogogue status, this makes perfect sense!
    There are variations for this cake, as with every traditional culinary creation, some complex and contrived, while others are earthy and unctuous.
    As I have explored the culinary meanderings and ornamental elaborations about this fenugreek cake, I have imagined cooks, neighbours, mothers and daughters,
    and those in haute cuisine disagreeing vehemently upon whether the seeds should be soaked, boiled, or toasted, and whether they should be ground or whole....
    Or, whether one should stick to semolina, or waver with wheat flour. Or indeed, whether yeast will suffice, or if flower water is a kerfuffle too far?
    There appears to be many a filigree and fancy flung at fenugreek cake, and I arrived upon a seedy little number, and threw myself headlong into the flirtatious fenugreek fandango that yielded cake in the afternoon.

    Fenugreek Cake
    Dough -
    1 cup of semolina
    2 cups of plain flour
    3 tablespoons fenugreek seeds
    2 tablespoons anise seeds
    2 tablespoons sesame seeds
    1 tablespoon fennel seed
    1 tablespoon nigella seed
    1 tablespoon caraway seed
    3 tablespoons light brown sugar
    1.5 teaspoons dried instant yeast
    Pinch of salt
    3/4 cup olive oil
    1 cup milk - dairy, soya, or as you like.
    For the syrup -
    1.5 cups of white or light brown sugar
    1/2 cup dark brown or molasses sugar
    2 cups water
    Juice of half a lemon.
    Firstly, take all of the seeds and gently toast them on a low heat, moving and turning them to prevent them from burning.
    Set aside.
    Warm the milk gently and pour the toasted seeds into the milk.
    Blitz milk and seeds with a hand blender or mixer.
    Put the yeast, salt, flour, sugar, and semolina all together in a bowl.
    Add the olive oil and combine well.
    Add the warm seeded milk, and stir until a sticky dough is formed.
    In a shallow dish or tray, spread out the dough and cover for one hour.
    While the dough rests, the sugar syrup can be made.
    Put the sugar and water together in a pan, bring to the boil, and then simmer gently for around 15 minutes.
    Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice.
    Leave to cool.
    Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees.
    Bake the dough for 20-25 minutes until golden.
    Straight away drizzle the cooled sugar syrup over the cake until it is covered.
    Leave to cool.
    Traditionally, the cake must be left overnight, and eaten the next day, once all of the flavours have developed and the syrup has
    seeped down and soaked into the cake below. While baking, the aromas that waft and encircle are mouthwatering, indeed!
    The cake is incredibly enticing, and ought to be whisked away for its overnight sojourn, once cooled.
    However, impatience gained the upper hand here, and slices were devoured gleefully and greedily, which leads me to report that the
    cake is delicious eaten hot or cold. On cutting, this cake was like a moist seeded focaccia, with piqued pillows of airy
    semolina punctuated by the aromatic crunch of seeds, and the sweet soaked delectation of sticky syrup.
    There are quite a few traditional variations to consider when making this cake, and more complex and refined versions call for rose water,
    pine nuts, almonds, or orange blossom water.
    I think I had better bake them all, in the guise of research.

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