Methi matar bin malai ~ Creamy fenugreek greens and peas

We took off to Goa for a few days, hoping to soak in some sun and sand, but the weather played truant.   The Monsoons descended ten days early.  I was on the getty taking placid pictures of the Mandovi with Aparna while our daughters found common areas of complaints with their mothers.  Without any warning the clouds burst into major showers.  In a bid to run for shelter and save the camera, I ended up falling flat on my face, breaking the camera.  That explains the dearth of posts on the blog.  Unfortunately, I did not have any new dishes, stored on the hard drive to fill the gap.

When my camera came back, repaired, hale and hearty I could not wait to cook and shoot pictures.  Monsoons are the best time for photography, as the clouds play natural screens allowing the right amount of light for good photography, without having to resort to diffusers.  I call it ‘fairy light’, for I am sure this is the time when elves, fairies and gnomes work their magic on Nature.  The winding tendrils of my new runner convinces me of that.

I have been baking a lot but mine is basically a cooking blog that showcases Indian food in all its glory. One feature I notice in modern Indian cooking is the elaborate time spent on preparing the spices while reducing cooking time. I am not an authority in this matter but this has been my observations from cookery shows and books. I have also noticed that our idea of ‘exotic’ has not undergone much change. The common interpretation is addition of cream / butter / ghee / paneer – all loaded with unhealthy fat.  In a bid to prove that we can cook exotic Indian delights while leaving our animals in peace, I have been busy, veganizing milk laden dishes, one day at a time. Just the other day I perfected my vegan yogurt and served M Aunty. M Aunty, is my Rajasthani neighbour and a loyal aficionado of all culinary shows. She had a spoon of the curd. And started. She could not believe I had served her ‘dahi’.  Ever since, I have been on a spree, veganizing one yogurt based dish a day.

Yesterday, it was methi matar malai.

The traditional cooking method is to saute  fenugreek greens and peas with aromatic spices,  and then balance it with a white gravy mixed with a few dollops of cream.  If you take apart the layers of flavours and taste you will find that the key role is played by the fine balanced blend of cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, the consistency is imparted by cashews and poppy seeds.  The milk and cream are redundant, having little effect on the taste, except for the final ’rounding off’.  The same effect / texture is easily achieved by adding thick, creamy and cruelty-free cashew yogurt.  Cashew has neither the bad fats that cream has, nor the guilt of consuming food that ethically belongs to other babies. Live and let live.

Dish: Methi matar bin malai ~ Fenugreek greens and peas in faux-cream gravy
Yield: Serves 4
Recipe, adapted from Tarla Dalal


Fenugreek leaves, trimmed, rinsed and drained – 3 cups (Optional – chop them if you do not like them stringy)
Green peas, podded – 1 cup
Onion, chopped fine – 1/2 cup
Tomatoes, medium sized, blanched – 3 nos. (1 chopped and 2 pureed)
Sugar – 1/8tsp. (to counter the bitterness of fenugreek and not to sweeten)
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp. (to temper)
Cashew yogurt – 2 tbsps.

Ingredients for paste:
Cashews, soaked – 2 tbsp.
Poppy seeds, dry roasted lightly without change in colour – 1 tbsp.
Fresh ginger root, chopped or sliced – 1″
Garlic, peeled – 5 cloves
Green chillies – 2 or more depending on heat tolerated

Ingredients for dry spice powder:
Cinnamon – 1″ stick
Cardamom – 4
Cloves – 4
Black peppercorns – 4
A petal of star anise (adds a sweet flavour)
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp.

Oil – 2 tbsp.


Heat a wok and dry roast the ingredients for the spice powder. I put them altogether and roasted till the cloves turned aromatic. Set aside to cool and grind into a fine powder. Set aside till needed.

Adding just enough water, grind the ingredients for the paste finely. Set aside till needed.

Puree two tomatoes and chop one finely.

Heat a tsp. of oil. Add green peas with a pinch of salt and fry till the colour changes to a different shade of green. Close with a lid, if needed to let it cook through. Remove and set aside till needed. Now add the fenugreek leaves in the same wok and let cook, stirring continually. Add salt to help the leaves wilt. Once wilted, set aside, along with liquid.

Wipe out pan. Heat remaining oil in the same wok. Crackle cumin seeds.

Add the onions and fry till transparent. Add the cashew paste and fry for about two minutes. Add tomato puree and chopped tomatoes and fry till blended and nearly dry. Now add spice powder and mix well till the whole things becomes aromatic.

Add the peas and fenugreek leaves with liquid. Add salt, sugar (as needed) and mix well. Boil water separately and add quarter cup if the gravy is thick. Add a tbsp. or two of cashew yogurt and swirl before serving.

Serve hot with rotis or naan.

Variations to the recipe:
Mushrooms can be used in place of fenugreek greens.


Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • Miri

    There was a time when all we would order if we were eating out was Methi Malai Muttar – now I wonder what the fascination was. I much prefer this version of yours which looks much more refined in taste than that cream laden dish which I have come to dislike!

  • Desisoccermom

    Harini, I have been coming back to this post every couple of days since you posted it. This used to be one of my favorite dishes to eat in restaurants, of course that one was with the malai, and lots of it. I am loving this version of yours and have been wanting to make it, which is why I have been coming back to it. I am thinking of using some sesame and peanuts in the cashew paste as well, just to make it creamier. Will let you know how it turns out. 🙂
    Love your new format and even though I don’t always comment, I read the blog regularly. 🙂

    • Harini

      Hey, peanuts sounds great. Glad you have been reading.:) I can understand the ‘not-commenting’ thing too. I do that a lot these days. In a tight schedule, commenting takes time and sometimes I smile, like the post but skip to the next tab which has another blog/site/news opened up! When I am thoroughly touched, I do go back to the post some other day and comment.

  • Swati Sapna

    Cashew Yoghurt? never heard of that… am intrigued! Where do you get it in Mumbai any idea?

  • malini

    very healthy without malai. adding poppy seeds give xtra taste.hoping for some more veg recipes.

    • Harini

      Yes, Malini. You are right about poppy seeds. They add texture and thickness and a mild flavour as well.:)

  • Pinky

    Harini you always come out with good techniques, whoever would have thought of preparing a methi matar malai sans malai,and as always nice pics.

    • Harini

      Thanks, Pinky! I am so glad you started your own blog. I hope to see some of your delicacies soon.:)

  • Nikhil Merchant

    Feel really bad for the camera part, am in Goa right now covering up some interesting topics, love the bin malai idea !!! gotta try this one soon 🙂

    • Harini

      Can’t wait to see what the next post on your blog is going to be. I guess you definitely will have some new cooking technique/recipe you will share when you get back. Enjoy!

  • Jayasree

    Glad to know you have a perfect vegan yogurt…So you will not miss morkootan, mambazha pulissery and the like.

    • Harini

      Yes, we don’t miss them anymore. Kurukku kaalan does not turn out the same because curd separates, but not vegan curd. The taste is great but the texture differs. We are fine with it however.

  • Lata Raja

    I have been making vegan yoghurt following your cashew yoghurt and like you, have substituted that for the milk yoghurt in a few dishes now. That works even better…richer and creamier by the cashews.
    This one sounds health-smart veganised!

    • Harini

      I am glad you tried it Lata. It is so much better for health too.

  • Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal

    Hey, that is a nice twist on usual recipe with malai, love the idea of that paste of cashews 🙂

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