No-Cream Methi Matar Malai| Fenugreek & Green Peas Gravy

When two of my winter loves – fenugreek greens and green peas – get together in a single dish, what’s to not love? I’m talking about Methi Matar Malai, that classic Punjabi gravy that is sheer delight to indulge in.

What is Methi Matar Malai?


The slight bitterness of fenugreek leaves (methi), mild heat from the green chillies used in the gravy, and the sweetness of seasonal green peas (matar) meld together beautifully in this dish. Typical restaurant-style Methi Matar Malai is made using loads of cream (malai), which is what gives the curry its rich, creamy texture and also adds to its sweetness. I absolutely adore this delicately spiced dish; I love gorging on it with some piping hot naan or parathas.


Making Methi Matar Malai relatively guilt-free


I endeavour to make Methi Matar Malai a relatively guilt-free indulgence for my family. Mock me if you want to, but I make mine sans any cream. I do use full-cream milk and a few cashewnuts, which makes the gravy just as rich and delicious as store-bought Methi Matar Malai. Cashewnuts, albeit a high-calorie ingredient, are far healthier than a carton of cream.

Very little oil, just 1/2 tablespoon, goes into the sabzi I make. It is a completely vegetarian preparation, one that can easily be made gluten-free by skipping the asafoetida used in the recipe. Milk or fresh cream are essential parts of Methi Matar Malai, and I’m not sure if it can be made vegan.

Methi Matar Malai recipe


Outlined below is the way I make Methi Matar Malai.

Ingredients (serves 4):

1. A small bunch of fenugreek leaves, about 1 cup when finely chopped
2. 2 cups shelled green peas
3. 1 small onion
4. 2 green chillies or as per taste
5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
6. 6 whole cashewnuts
7. 6 whole almonds
8. 1/2 tablespoon oil
9. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
10. 2 pinches of asafoetida
11.1 cup milk, boiled and cooled
12. 1 cup water
13. Salt to taste
14. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
15. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder

Method:

1. Wash the fenugreek leaves thoroughly under running water, removing all traces of mud from them. Then, place them in a colander and let all the water drain out.

2. Take the green peas in a wide vessel, and add in 2-3 tablespoons water. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 3 whistles on high flame or till the peas are cooked but not overly mushy. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Peel the onion and ginger, and chop roughly. Chop the green chillies roughly. Take the chopped onion, ginger and green chillies in a small mixer jar, and add in the cashewnuts and almonds. Grind all the ingredients in the mixer jar together to a smooth paste, adding a little water. Keep aside.

4. Once the water has fully drained out of the fenugreek greens, chop them finely. Keep aside.

5. Now, we will begin to prepare the Methi Matar Malai. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add in the cumin. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

6. Add the finely chopped fenugreek leaves to the pan, along with a little salt. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute on medium flame till the fenugreek leaves are cooked through, 4-5 minutes.

7. Add the paste we ground earlier to the pan. Keep sauteeing on medium flame till the raw smell from the paste goes away, 3-4 minutes. If the paste gets too thick, you can add a little water at this stage.

8. When the paste has cooked, add the  green peas to the pan, along with the water they were cooked in. Mix well.

9. Add 1 cup of water and milk to the pan, along with salt to taste and jaggery powder. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes.

10. Now, add garam masala to the pan. Cook on medium flame till the Methi Matar Malai thickens and starts coming together. This should take another 2-3 minutes. Switch off gas when the curry is still quite runny – it thickens considerably on cooling.  Serve the curry hot or warm, with rotis or parathas.

Tips & Tricks

1. Many prepare the Methi Matar Malai entirely in a pan, without using the pressure cooker at all. I prefer doing it the way I have outlined above.

2. Fresh, tender, seasonal fenugreek leaves and green peas work best in this curry.

3. I use full-cream boiled and cooled Nandini milk in the above recipe.

4. If you want, fresh cream can be added the Methi Matar Malai. In fact, many cook the sabzi entirely in fresh cream, but I have omitted it. It is still creamy and delicious, thanks to the cashewnuts and full-fat milk.

5. I have used a mix of milk and water to cook the sabzi. You may use milk entirely, too.

6. The jaggery powder is optional in the above recipe, but I highly recommend it. It rounds off the taste of the sabzi beautifully. Sugar can be used instead, too.

7. Adjust the quantity of cashewnuts, almonds, milk and water as per personal taste preferences. Similarly, adjust the number of green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the curry to be.

8. Do not use more than 1 cup of fenugreek leaves for the above quantities of ingredients, otherwise the curry will turn bitter.

9. You can add in some tomatoes and garlic while grinding the onions, cashewnuts, green chillies and ginger for the gravy. I don’t use them, though.

10. Don’t overdo the garam masala. Add in only a little bit, just enough to mildly flavour the gravy.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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