Alu and Methi

This marvellous book was given to me by Alix for my birthday a couple of years ago and I have used it regularly since, although always skipping or substituting an ingredient or two, as is the way with weekday cooking. For you, gentle readers, I shall do things strictly as Ms Chowdhary instructs! I have the fourth imprint from 1963, though it was first published in 1954, with the author reassuring readers that they do not need to add plenty of chilli, can omit onions and garlic, and that the majority of ingredients can be obtained ‘from my local grocer, chemist and corn merchant’. She also states that there are 3 or 4 well-known Indian grocers in London.


The author’s life was not unusual – she was a school teacher who moved from India to the UK in the 1930s to be with her husband (a doctor), however her involvement in the India League, her founding (with her husband) of several Hindu organisations as well as authoring three books means her work provides excellent insight into the Britain of this period, as well as her own experiences (more information here).

I chose this recipe as I love the components (of course!) but also because I wanted to minimise the amount of washing up – a starch and a vegetable in one pot, what could be better?

Alu and Methi  (or spinach)
1 ½lb potato (preferably small)
½lb methi [fenugreek] or spinach
1 tablespoon of set butter fat [directions for making ghee are given earlier in the book]
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 small piece fresh ginger or medium sized onion
½ teaspoon chilli powder (optional)

For 4 people

Fry the finely-sliced ginger or onion slowly in the butter-fat for a few minutes. Add turmeric, salt, chilli powder and mix well. Add potatoes – which should be scraped not peeled and cut into halve and quarters if large – and allow to sizzle for a few minutes. Cover the frying pan and cook gently until the potatoes are slightly tender, which should take about fifteen minutes.

Well wash the methi or spinach, and cut quite small, (tender stalks should be included), drain and add this to the frying potatoes. Mix well and cook for another fifteen minutes without the lid. When the vegetables are tender and all the superfluous liquid has dried off, mix in the garam-masala.

Transfer the alu methi into a vegetable dish, cover it well and keep it in a low-heated oven until ready to serve.

Notes

  • I used spinach, not fenugreek.
  • I used onion, not ginger. I don’t know if I was using potatoes that were too large, but the onions started to overcook, long before the potatoes were ready, and at that point I heavily involved in the chicken curry I was making to go with it. I sloshed in  some water – about a quarter of a pint. I then carried on as the recipe specified.

Results

This tasted fresh and straightforward and was a good accompaniment to the chicken I made with it. Like so many vegetarian dishes, it was much improved after a day in the fridge. Due to the kind of potatoes used, this dish freezes well.

Alu’d by Elly

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7 responses to “Alu and Methi

  1. That cookbook is absolutely gorgeous. Are there illustrations?

  2. I only have fenugreek as a seed/spice. I wonder if it would germinate and grow, like coriander seed, and yield some new-flavour greens. Watch this space!

  3. Yinzerella – no, sadly the lovely picture on the cover is the only one.

  4. My eyes opened wide at the instruction for 1/2 lb Fenugreek, not for one minute imagining it as a leafy vegetable! I know that the seed leaves a rather long after-taste.

  5. Bruce Livingstone

    This book is a masterpiece. Anyone can follow the recipes with great success. I have tried most of them and get best results using a slow cooker. Cooked in this way her ‘Lamb or Mutton curry’ is just superb.

  6. I sowed fenugreek seeds, from my local Indian spice shop, in a pot, and they germinated indoors within a week. However, the lack of light that accompanied plummeting temperatures meant that little else happened, and after a month all I had were some spindly white stalks with very baby leaves fit only for throwing into a general salad. It was enough to encourage me to try again with an outdoor version when the weather is more clement.

  7. I bought this book (new) in London in 1960, and have kept it ever since. I just cooked a recipe from it (aubergine and potato) yesterday, here in Bolinas, California