How One Small Gift Helped Me Start Cooking with a New Spice

(Image credit: Don Mammoser)shutterstock

Last week I talked about five simple habits that help me cook with new ingredients. One of the things I mentioned (also, one of my favorite things) was picking up interesting local ingredients while traveling.

But there’s something even more exciting than that: when other people buy interesting ingredients for you when they’re traveling. It’s like opening the mystery box on a cooking show, minus the pressure of competition.

Earlier this year I was gifted a small satchel of ground fenugreek from travels in India. I was thrilled! I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, but this was a spice I’d been wanting to get to know and cook with. I’d seen fenugreek listed in recipes, I read about it in passing, yet I’d never cooked with it before.

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

I was sure I knew the basics of fenugreek and how to use it, yet once it was sitting right in front of me I wasn’t quite so sure anymore. I felt certain it was used in Indian cooking – which was confirmed by this satchel’s origin. But, now I wondered, did it add heat? Savoriness? It’s a component of curries, right? But, how else could it be used?

The more questions I asked myself, the more excited I got to page through cookbooks and hop on the internet to learn everything I could about cooking with fenugreek. This is just one of the reasons food makes such a great souvenir. I love learning about new foods, trying new things, and above all experimenting in the kitchen.

Reading up on fenugreek taught me so much more than simply how to use it. It also lead me on interesting tangents, learning more about other common ingredients and other spices in Indian and also Middle Eastern cooking. It was unexpected, yet really fun. While I have yet to actually visit India, one small satchel of ground fenugreek brought me a lot closer to its food.

I’m still scratching the surface, but so far I’ve been including fenugreek in curries and spice rubs for meat. And, it prompted me to start making my own curry powder instead of buying the pre-mixed blend from the store.

Have you ever cooked with fenugreek? What’s your favorite way to use it?