I’ve been punishing myself lately for past decisions that have appeared in the present as a clear reflection of not embracing my self-worth.
I keep going over and over in my head about how I should have done things differently, how I should have been more confident in my unique qualities and valued my time and talents more highly. Given that the situation I’m referring to is one of the most emotionally, physically and spiritually draining challenges I have faced, it’s ironic that I found a message in something as small as a seed – a fenugreek seed to be precise.
I’ve been craving a curry that my mum used to make when I was young, an Indian beef and potato curry with fresh fenugreek shoots that she grew in our garden from seeds. It was delicious. So I went to an Indian grocer with my dad and sister in search of fresh fenugreek shoots. The owner of the store told us, “It is hard to supply fresh fenugreek shoots because they only last a couple of days and then we take them home to use or throw them out”. We were shown frozen fenugreek shoots as an alternative; so I thought I’d give them a try and bought one packet. I also bought a packet of fenugreek seeds and planted some in the backyard to eventually harvest for a curry.
There are said to be many benefits of consuming fenugreek through food, herbal supplements and beverages, including enhanced breast fullness, an increase in breast milk production during lactation, eases the symptoms of menopause, regulates menstruation, and induces and eases labour due to the naturally occurring oestrogen mimicking constituents; reduces the risk of heart attacks, lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels, enhances libido in women and men, beneficial for diabetics, assists with digestive complaints, suppresses the appetite, cleansing to internal organs such as the kidneys and intestines, eases ‘flu symptoms and when applied in a topical preparation it can be soothing to skin irritations.
The versatile fenugreek, or trigonella foenum-graecum, is from the pea family and is used as both a herb (leaves/shoots) and a spice (the seeds). Here are some ways fenugreek is used in food and beverages.
Mix one teaspoon of crushed fenugreek seeds with 1 cup of boiling water and leave it to steep for a few hours. The longer you leave it the better. I left two teaspoons of seeds to steep for 24 hours and drank it at room temperature since the weather was hot. The taste is mild and you could add honey and spices similar to chai if your palate doesn’t agree with bland flavours. You can also make iced tea by adding lemon, fresh mint and ice cubes or blend the tea with chilled lemonade or cordial. To help you get a daily dose of fenugreek, you can add the tea to fresh juice, smoothies or when plain water can be replaced by another liquid during cooking.
To make a coffee substitute, roast a few tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in a pan until brown. The seeds will start to smell like a mix between dried peas, nuts and popcorn. Put the seeds in a coffee grinder (I ground them down to a powder). Mix one teaspoon of powder and one cup of boiling water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Strain into a coffee cup and add sugar or honey to taste and milk. I added a generous amount of honey because the seeds are bitter. You can also add spices if you wish. The fenugreek coffee will be a golden colour, much paler than traditional coffee.
Fenugreek seeds are used in savoury and sweet dishes throughout the world, including China, North Africa, Egypt, the Middle East, Turkey, the United States of America and especially in Indian curry powders and chutneys. Fenugreek is often used to make imitation maple syrup. Fenugreek leaves or shoots are used in Indian curries, vegetable dishes, salads and chapattis.
I used some of the frozen fenugreek in the following recipes:
4 tablespoons of ghee
2 medium diced onions
3 cloves of diced garlic
2cm cube of ginger grated
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
2 crushed cardamoms
1 small stick of cinnamon
3 heaped teaspoons of cumin powder
2 bay leaves
800g diced beef
2 heaped tablespoons of yoghurt
2 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste
2 big splashes of white vinegar
Salt to taste
2 medium potatoes peeled and diced into chunks
250g frozen fenugreek shoots
Fry the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of ghee until brown, add the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and bay leaves and fry until fragrant. Add the beef, yoghurt, tomato paste, vinegar and salt, stir well and bring to a gentle simmer. Fry the potatoes in ghee until just golden brown and add to the curry. Simmer for about one hour or until the potatoes and meat are tender, mix in the fenugreek shoots and simmer again until warmed through.
Pour approximately 2-3 cups organic white plain flour into a large bowl, add a few tablespoons of warmed ghee, a sprinkle of salt, a small handful of defrosted fenugreek shoots and warm water.
I mixed the dough by hand and added water as needed until it came together without being too sticky. I let the dough rest before dividing it into small tennis balls and rolling them out on a floured surface with a rolling pin. I fried the chapattis in some ghee until they were golden brown on both sides and served them with the curry and natural yoghurt.
The fenugreek seeds helped me to forgive myself for past choices by becoming aware of my immediate gifts as well as my potential. I stopped being so hard on myself by accepting that I’d done the best I could with the knowledge and experience I had. Similarly, if I’d dismissed fenugreek seeds as merely the beginning of fenugreek shoots, I would have missed out on the health and culinary benefits the seeds offer.
The soil I planted the fenugreek seeds in was full of rocks, dead twigs and surrounded by well-established plants and, just like my personal challenge, I could have wished for more favourable conditions. Despite the unappealing soil, healthy fenugreek shoots appeared within seven days, ready to be harvested. I learnt to focus on being my finest in every present moment, amidst the inevitable obstacles, in order for my inner seeds to reach their potential.
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