30-Minutes or Less!/ Recipes: Vegetarian

Indian Cooking 101: How NOT to cook Indian food (Methi Matar)

In my quest to dismiss the myth that Indian cooking is not for the faint-hearted and to help spread my knowledge on some simple and traditional Indian food recipes, like this Methi Matar, I have started this series called Indian Cooking 101. To make it more interactive and as helpful as I can for my readers, I welcome you to email me any questions that you may have in the process. I will try and respond to the questions personally through email, or in the next part if it’s connected to what I have already planned to discuss.

Since I’ve been buried in deadlines the past week, writing and researching for some of my upcoming freelance assignments, I had the privilege of spending many long hours at the bookstore amidst some of the best collections of cookbooks – all the while thinking about his Methi Matar that I was going to cook for dinner.

Recipe for Methi Matar taken from www.hookedonheat.com. Visit site for detailed recipe.

Don’t you just love it when you can grab your favourite cup of coffee, and comfortably settle yourself on a cosy plush leather chair in the cookbook section of a huge store? Yea, me too, and that’s just why I plan on spending many more days there. I figure even if I don’t actually get any work done, I could at least read about food to my heart’s content. While on the topic of simplifying Indian food, something I was working to write on, I decided to go on a little hunt and see what I could find. Shockingly, I wasn’t impressed at all!

I picked up a few books, most that looked very promising, and began skimming through some of the most popular recipes, that the authors, no doubt tried their best to recreate as quick and simple as possible. While many made good sense to me, I was horrified by what a few others instructed. So, as I sat down and began taking notes, I decided to make my own list of do’s/dont’s, more on the dont’s actually, of what NOT to do when making an Indian dish.

Here is what I came up with:

1. In no case, and I mean NO case, should you add ketchup while making curry. If you’re short of time for chopping tomatoes, run them through a food processor to puree. If that’s still not an option, then please, at least use canned tomato paste. But DO NOT use ketchup! That just won’t work. I can only begin to imagine the taste it would give to your so-called curry!

2. Whatever people may like to think, curry powder is not really a solution to making a quick curry. In fact, until and unless it’s a blend from an actual Indian location, like say, Madras curry powder, or Malabar curry powder, then it probably won’t and can’t even taste anything close to the Chicken Curry you ravished for dinner at the nearby Indian restaurant. The pale yellow curry powder found on the shelves of many grocery stores hardly taste anything like the real deal. For a quick solution, make sure you have the 5 most basic spices at hand – red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric, garam masala and cumin powder. When you have less time to spare, just add about half a teaspoon of each of them, adjusting the chilli powder to your taste of course, before stirring in the yogurt. I promise you, you won’t regret it.

3. No matter what happens, DO NOT add flour to thicken your gravy. Stir in some yoghurt, or better still, a tablespoon or two of cashew/almond paste/powder. The results will be delicious, without being lumpy and looking a mess.

I really do hope this helps in bringing people a step closer to understanding the basic of Indian cooking. I will try and touch upon similar subjects through my Indian Cooking 101 series, and can only hope that Indian food will be perceived as something that one can easily whip up on a normal weeknight – like this Methi Matar.

On that note, I leave you with this quick recipe of Methi Matar, something I whipped up for dinner last night after the long ride home in the rain. For a pea lover like, it’s a wonderful treat. And even better is how simple it is to make.


Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings: 2
Author: Meena, www.hookedonheat.com


  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh fenugreek leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas thawed
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt beaten till smooth
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp light cooking oil
  • salt to taste


  • Sauté cumin and coriander seeds in hot oil till they start to sizzle and pop. Add sliced onions and fry till tender.
  • Add in fenugreek leaves, and fry for a few minutes till they wilt.
  • Mix in salt and spices, and then add peas. Add yogurt and stir well for another minute or two, allowing to simmer for a few minutes.
  • Enjoy warm with rotis.

Tried this recipe? Leave a Comment and let me know, also Rate it by clicking the number of stars on the recipe card. Want to share your version with me? Tag me on Instagram @hookedonheat



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    July 29, 2016 at 3:09 AM

    5 stars
    I am just getting started and my head is swimming with too much information!
    Your blog is helping to take it a step at a time. 🙂
    I went through the spice list and found them at an Asian Market (with the help of two nice ladies who kept putting back my choices and handing me the better ones! So kind.)
    Went through the list of pans – check.

    Still confused about the amount of spices, seeds verses powder (the ladies put the powder back and gave me the seeds…lol ) but doing it will be the best way to learn.

    I hope I can avoid ginger and still pull off great dishes.

    Thanks for your work on this site. It will be a great help.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    Those are great tips. So often, speed gets substituted for taste in recipes. It’s disappointing.

  • Reply
    Laureen Fox
    October 28, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    Seriously, ketchup while making curry? People really do that? Seems it would just spoil a good dish.

  • Reply
    June 10, 2010 at 12:42 AM

    Please help. I have never made curry before and I just made a dish from a recipe a friend provided. It smells wonderful and looks great but it is bitter and too spicy (hot) Can this be fixed before I have to feed it to my guests?

  • Reply
    March 22, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    Your recipes look so amazing, can’t wait to try them. And your how not to cook Indian food is very funny. In defense of the catsup, though, if you use unsweetened catsup, it is basically tomato paste. Also, I would add to the list, avoid ‘every vegetable in the kitchen’ curry, a common mistake of Anglo-vegetarians.

  • Reply
    August 26, 2009 at 11:36 AM

    i tried out this recipe with coconut milk instead of yogurt and it turned out good!!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2007 at 9:38 PM

    Hi Meenakshi, that’s a great recipe with two of the most “healthful” ingredients around…… thanks for sharing the same

  • Reply
    August 18, 2007 at 9:25 AM

    Tried your Methi Matar recipe and it was delicious! Thanks!!
    And I must confess, I use ketchup in my cooking every once in a while as I think it gives a unique flavor to dishes apart from being a quick substitute when you’re out of tomatoes.

  • Reply
    Steamy Kitchen
    June 28, 2007 at 7:30 AM

    I loooove cuddling up in a big chair at the bookstore too – I wish I could bring my fuzzy socks and a blanket sometimes.

  • Reply
    Aparna Pappu
    June 26, 2007 at 3:15 PM

    I like the idea of a ‘Not To’ list for Indian cooking. So many people come up to me and ask me why Indian Curry is different from Japanese curry. I have no idea what they mean by Indian curry as its different with every dish. Those store bought powders are a joke.Your peas and methi recipe sounds great – something unique which I have not seen anywhere else. I will definitely try it on my pea-loving husband soon

  • Reply
    June 15, 2007 at 10:33 AM

    Meena – that looks delicious. I absolutely love mattar – actually have a cilantro mattar recipe on my site recently, but never tried it with methi. The photo makes me want to… love your photography throughout the site.

  • Reply
    June 2, 2007 at 11:48 AM

    Hi Meena,

    I’ve tried some of your recipes to great success (my favourite remains Gobi Manchurian).

    My problem seems to be that most of the chicken curry recipe variations I try making myself end up tasting more or less the same. I mean I’ve got a local indian restaurant here that serves up great tasting chicken madras, chicken masala, blah blah chicken, but the moment I try something – it seems like the basic spice mix – coriander powder, garam masala, cumin powder, red chilli powder – all end up tasting so similar even though I vary the propotions. “How not to cook Indian food” – what am I doing wrong?



    Hi Krish, it’s quite evident that adding the same spices, even in varied proportions, will give you very similar tasting curries. Why not start by using just a few a time, instead of the regular mix. Choose what flavours you enjoy most and try to make them prominent in the curry. Hopefully, you’ll soon find your own variations that you’ll keep coming back to.

  • Reply
    June 1, 2007 at 3:59 PM

    Meena, my first time leaving a comment and I have to sheepishly admit that I did the sinful act of once – only ONCE – using ketchup for a quick and dirty chicken curry. There were no other substitutes available at the time and I took a deep breath and dumped the Maggi Hot and Chilli Sauce into the pan! it was actually pretty good but I agree, it’s sacrilegious to try that again 🙂

    Haha! I’ve had one too many people come out with the confession Shilpa, so rest assured it’s quite a common one! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 31, 2007 at 4:24 PM

    Another bug bear of mine is the addition of fruits and nuts to curries. My colleague puts pineapples and all sorts of other dubious ingredients in her curries. Why, oh why?

    Also, cooking Indian with olive oil? When you have to fry so many spices and ingredients how does this make sense? On any level?

    Grumble, grumble…

    Oh yea, the olive thing really gets on my nerve as well! I can’t undestand how the end result of all the spices would taste with the fruitiness of the oil. Some people, what can I say! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 24, 2007 at 2:49 PM

    I’ve been on a methi (fenugreek) kick for couple weeks now. I’ve bought so much methi that if allowed, it’ll last me 4 more weeks. Crazy, I know. But I love the bitter but delicious flavor it adds to any dish. Something about the herb that is different than anything I’ve had here. I’ve made parathas, aloo methi and theplas (roti like generally found in any gujarati household). I am so glad your dish is as simple and sounds as scrumptious as it does, methi will be used for methi matter tonight. Thank you

  • Reply
    Meena Kandlakuti
    May 23, 2007 at 6:27 PM

    Hi Meenakshi,

    thanks for those tips. Even I just love to spen lots of time before cooking books in library or any other book store.But right now Iam not blessed with that plenty of time.Hope in near futur:-) I generally get all masala powders from my home either my mother or my mil does for us. If not any I make my self. Ur right. In stores I just can’nt trust them in any means.Lovely dish…its quick one.Thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    May 22, 2007 at 10:51 AM

    I’m so glad I’m not the only anti-currypowder facist out there! If you want to see serious curry powder abuse then come visit me in Germany. German food is very bland, and curry powder is very cheap so Germans seem to see it as the obvious answer to making dinner a little more exciting. Berlin’s local specialitity is the Currywurst – a Bratwurst doused in ketchup, with a generous sprinkling of currypowder on top. And no it’s not “Malabar curry powder”; it’s that flourescent yellow stuff that tastes like the stale dust from the bottom of an old old spice drawer.

  • Reply
    May 20, 2007 at 11:39 PM

    I’m happy I’ve got that 5 basic spices you listed. Do you think paprika can be a good substitute for red chili powder?

  • Reply
    May 19, 2007 at 7:39 AM

    hi…i’ve only stumbled upon ur site recently. Im of chinese-indian parentage & i absolutely love indian food! But i hardly try cooking indian food as my dad is an accomplished cook in this respect…and well…i nvr had his talent;p But your site is the 1st of all ive visited with such simple but delicious recipes that i can easily follow…and i must say my dad has been beaming proudly since! ;D All thx 2 u!

  • Reply
    May 18, 2007 at 6:26 PM

    Hi Meena, another flavourful dish.

    Read your piece in the CSM – nice, enjoyed it.

    Deadlines huh? Tell me about it! 🙂

    And you’re right, there nothing quite like curling up with a cookbook and being surrounded by lots of of other cookbooks in your favourite bookstore. That’s my idea of a good time 🙂 I know, I know, I need to get out some more (lol)

  • Reply
    May 18, 2007 at 10:51 AM

    ha! ketchup!! funny. that photo however looks amazing. i want to eat this now.

  • Reply
    May 17, 2007 at 10:30 PM

    Good subject chosen Meena, I do come across some ridiculous techniques and ingredients in Indian cook books written by non Indians or the food articles. Your tips will bring ppl closer to authentic Indian cooking at home!

  • Reply
    May 17, 2007 at 6:44 PM

    Great tips! And I really like your Indian 101 series. Maybe I should do a Chinese Cooking 101 in my blog as well… 😀
    Regarding Point (3) “…DO NOT add flour to thicken your gravy…” in Chinese cooking, we usually use a cornflour solution (cornflour mixed with water) to thicken gravy. With a solution, there won’t be any lumps.

  • Reply
    May 17, 2007 at 6:40 PM

    It all comes with globalization of various cuisine. Thinking about this, I don’t know with how many cuisines am making the same mistake..

  • Reply
    May 17, 2007 at 5:03 PM

    Nice article there on CSM. very neatly summed up.

  • Reply
    May 17, 2007 at 3:44 PM

    Hi Meena,

    Don’t be mad, but I occasionally resort to frozen curries on those days that I am too tired to stand, let alone cook ;~). One of my favorites of the frozens is Methi Malai Mutter. I looked up Malai, and all I can tell is that it is a cream. Would that be the same result as adding the yogurt that you suggest?

    Can’t wait to try this!


    WHAT??? FROZEN??? How could you Christine!?! 😉 lol, just kidding! Yes, Malai is cream, and I substitued yoghurt here for a low fat healthier version. sure, you can go ahead and try it with cream as well. Let me know how it goes. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 17, 2007 at 2:34 PM

    Adding a tablespoon or two of cashew/almond powder to thicken a curry sounds like really useful advice (as are the other tips, obviously). Thanks for sharing!

    Thanks Pille, glad you find them helpful. 🙂

  • Reply
    Dushyant Wadivkar
    May 17, 2007 at 2:18 PM

    Excellent blog. Really well laid out and while I admit at most times I skipped the write up and jumped to the recipe, this blog is very much what I was looking for. Hoping that you keep churning out the recipies and me converting them to edible realities.

    Thanks Dushyant, let me know how the recipes turn out. Which ones have you tried so far?

  • Reply
    May 17, 2007 at 2:57 PM

    gorgeous looking dish, meena.

    Thanks Bee!

  • Reply
    May 17, 2007 at 1:11 PM

    meenakshi, those are some good points to remember. I am also hesitant to recommend a generic curry powder for Indian cooking. The methi matar looks delicious.

    I know Mandira, I hate it when I’m asked to recommend a brand of curry powder too, especially since I almost never use it!

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.