Fenugreek or methi, as we know it, possibly originated in the Mediterranean region. It is interesting to note that the ubiquitous seeds in most Indian cuisine were actually used for embalming by the Egyptians, while the Greeks and Romans used it for cattle fodder.
The tiny bitter seeds can add a rich aroma, colour and flavour when used in various recipes. However, it is best not to use the seeds as they are. Roast them over a slow fire before adding them to any dish. If you want to use it in the powdered form, follow the same procedure. If you want to grind the seeds into the dish, soak it overnight, preferably with a pinch of salt to get a smooth paste. If you want to use methi seeds for seasoning, add them to the oil when it is at maximum heat and take it off immediately. When you grind batter for dosa, make sure that you soak a teaspoon of methi seeds along with urad dal.
For those of you who are hard pressed for time, here are a few tips to keep your methi masala ready:
Roast methi, jeera and dhaniya seeds in one is to two is to four ratio and powder the spices with a half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Toss a teaspoonful of the spice mix in your curries or rice preparations just before you turn off the flame and mix it well. This will lend a tasty and healthy twist to your cooking.
If you have lots of curry leaves at home, wash and dry them. Add a teaspoon of roasted methi seeds to the dried leaves, powder them and use this to season your sambhar or chutneys.