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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

spice rack roll call...fenugreek?

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Hubs LOVES bugging me about my spice rack. From his perspective, he has little use for my hordes of little bottles, bags, tins and our kitchen's distinct lack of cupboard space, the spices take up an entire shelf in the pantry. As much as I would love to have some sort of funky rack, I actually have never been able to find a spice rack that holds a reasonable amount of spices....they all seem to hold something like 12 or maybe 16, max.

What I also love is that somehow, most of these spice racks come with spices ALREADY in exactly is a newfound plethora of stale spices supposed to solve my spice storage issues????? Meh. At least after living together for over three years, I've now got hubs mostly-convinced of the validity of having a well-stocked spice rack (before I moved in, he had garlic powder, italian seasoning, salt and pepper...ah, the glamour).

And tonight's dinner definitely made use of it. Sadly though, as complete as my spice rack is....there was one thing missing. Fenugreek. I'd vaguely heard of this spice before...but never used it or knowingly tasted it. And do you think I could find it? Nope. I checked the discount grocery store, the big crazy grocery store and even the bulk food store (which surprisingly has more spices than I could ever dream of). But no fenugreek to be I had to make the recipe without it.....though I'm still very curious as to what it tastes like and what it would do to my recipe.....

This is pretty closely based on a something I found online a while back. It's an ethiopian-inspired lentil tomato stew....quite tasty. It's not the best thing I've ever made, but hubs and I both enjoyed it and would likely make it again.

Added benefits of this recipe:
- using up spices you forgot you had
- cheap, super healthy and full of "super" foods
- exotic flavours for pennies a plate :)

Ethiopian Spicy Lentil-Tomato Stew
1 c brown lentils
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh ginger, grated
2 T olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 small can tomato paste
1 c vegetable stock
2 T sugar
1 cup peas
fresh coriander

Spice Mix:
2 t cumin
2 t smoked paprika
1 t fenugreek (didnt' have it, subbed 1/2 t celery seed and 1/2 t turmeric)
1/2 t thyme
3/4 t cardamom
1/4 t coriander
1/8 t allspice
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t cinnamon
1/2 t cayenne

1. In a medium pot, boil the lentils for about 40 minutes (or until tender). Once they are tender, drain them and set aside. [if you're making rice, start now!]
2. Meanwhile, measure out all your spices. I LOVE these colours. Gorgeous.

Yummy spices!

3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger. Once the onion starts to soften, add the carrots.
4. After 3-4 minutes (and before the garlic starts to burn), add the spice mix and combine well, stirring for 1 more minute.
5. Add the broth, tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer for about 10 minutes (until carrots start to soften).
6. Add the lentils and peas. And, if you're smarter than I am, you won't let a massive frozen block of peas double your dosage.....oops


7. One the peas are cooked (about 3-4 minutes), sprinkle in some fresh coriander. Yum. I served this over brown rice, but to be more authentic, you could make injera, a wonderful ethiopian flat bread. I had no such time or patience tonight. ;) But it is good stuff.


Thanks for reading! :) This is a great hearty dish for a cold night. Already looking forward to my leftovers tomorrow!


Sara said...

This looks gooood, and I think I might have all the ingredients, thanks!!

Mrs. Spaghetti Bender said...

I am no where near the gourmet that you are but I did go out and buy loads of spice jars so that I could organize a spice 'drawer'. I fit about 5 across and about 5 back ... it has got to the point that I am on my second row : )

Anonymous said...

Funny. The spice rack I bought hubby has a label for "fenugreek", and that was the first time I had ever heard of it. I still don't know what it is. :p oh, and btw: hubby was the one that wanted/begged/cajoled me for a spice rack. but does he use it? no. Does he cook? no. so I guess it's MINE now!

I can sympathize with the mess that is your spice pantry. Storage space in my apartment kitchen is at a premium. But I've gotten (and so has hubs, hah!) really irritated with the little bags of spices lying everywhere. So I went to Dollarama and found those spice containers (with the shaker top under the lid) - 3 for $1!! I am SO looking forward to labelling them and finally chucking those ugly plastic baggies!

Anonymous said...

You can proabably find at any Indian grocery store as 'methi' (prounouced me-thee)....the recipe you made probably calls for the ground seeds, but you can also buy the 'plant' as well...its a bit bitter.

Love your blog by the way!

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the magnetic spice jars that you can stick on your fridge?? Bit expensive, but brilliant idea... as you can put as many as you want up there, and then all your spices are super easy to see!! (and not taking up any cupboard space!!)

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

sara - thanks! It was pretty I said, not the best thing ever, but definitely okay.

mrs spaghetti bender - I like the idea of putting them in a drawer....but I have no drawer space left!

lesley - I should totally suck it up and go to the dollar store. I was opening the cayenne pepper tonight and I think I got some in my eye!

anonymous - thanks! and thanks for the tip - I have a kabillion Indian stores near me....I should go. :)

aussie cook - in theory, I love the idea. But in practice....the amount of times I knock things off the fridge leads me to believe that this would only end in disastrous spices cascaded across the floor....maybe if there was somewhere it could be sheltered from my clumsiness.....

HumanUnit said...

I see someone already mentioned "methi". I grew up around the stuff, and I know it went into a lot of dishes, but on its own it just has a weird, funky smell. I'm sure it contributes some delicious flavour but it's very indescribable.

This is probably why my Indian dishes taste nothing like what I remember from my childhood! I'm always excluding ingredients that seem "weird" or are too much of a pain to track down!

- HumanUnit

Unknown said...

I think Fenugreek is also some women use to boost their chances of getting pregnant!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you have a World Market in Ottawa, but they carry it (along with cardamom pods!).

As for the spice dilemma -- I am always excited when going into a container store and then disappointed when they never have any good solutions. I sacrificed a whole shelf in my cupboard and made 7 rows, then alphabetized the spices in them, front to back. I can stick my hand in between the rows for easy access and it looks like a little teeny supermarket inside my cupboard. Seems like you don't have enough cupboard real estate for this, but maybe one day. =)

I found your blog through flickr -- great stuff!! I will be trying out some of these awesome recipes. Thanks for your work. =)

Anonymous said...

I love Ethiopian food, I think I will try your recipe this weekend! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

How fabulous! I just made this...and it is fantstic! Got home late tonight, so I used canned lentils, and I don't like cooked carrot or frozen peas (the only two veggies I don't like! honest!). Hubby is on a conference call in the den, so I brought him a plate full, not sure what he thinks of it yet. I added some red rice that I cooked up last night in the last few minutes of simmering, and then placed it on top of some left over basmati rice I heated in microwave. Total meal time about 15 minutes! Thanks for the inspiration (in photos & words).


Anonymous said...

Fenugreek looks like brown seeds and tastes bitter on its own. You can powder it and use it....its so much more better. It can also be found as fresh leaves or as dried leaves going by the name of "methi" in hindi. You can find it in any Indian grocery store.

Hope this helps!

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