Mutton Nihari

My kind of meat stew – once tried in a Bradford restaurant, and not forgotten. The meat was a cheap (the best!) cut, cooked VERY long and slow to fall apart, with the bones for maximum flavour.

Served simply, with naan or chapati, and a garnish of fresh coriander leaves, slivers of ginger, and lemon wedges.

Goes without saying that a dish this good has several histories – each as good as the other. I like those which suggest it was a favourite of 18th century Mughal princes, a breakfast dish to “greet the day” (the name is from the Arabic, nihaar; “day”, as in the hours between sunrise and sunset). Cooked overnight. Just the garnish to add, and tuck in after the dawn (Fajr) prayer.

You want the real stuff? Try this.


  • The stew
    • 1 kg of mutton
      • Your call. While you obviously want meat, you also want all the extra flavour from bones. The recipes I’ve looked at call for mutton shank or leg (cut in slices), which gives you all the richness of marrow bones (and the simple pleasure of noisily sucking them). However, “my” butcher has started selling mutton necks, so I’ll try that first – mutton scrag is such good eating.
    • 4 tbsp ghee/butter/oil
    • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
    • 1 tsp each, of ginger paste and garlic paste; or near equivalent 😉
    • 2 tsp ground coriander
    • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
    • 3 tbsp nihari masala
    • 3 tbsp flour
  • The Nihari Masala – here
  • The garnish – a simple, but powerful, complement to the complexity of the stew.
    • a couple of inches fresh ginger, peeled, and cut into delicate matchstick-style slivers (julienned)
    • a lemon (or lime), cut into thin wedges
    • a few stalks of fresh coriander
    • and maybe, just maybe, a couple of finely sliced chillies?

Method. [My apologies to Pakistani mamas the world over – I’m doing it wrong (at least according to the recipes I’m reading). But I trust it will work. Sorry, but I don’t see the point of adding a flour slurry late on in the cooking process. ***]

  • Heat the ghee (or oil, oil/butter mixture) in a large pot. Dust the mutton pieces with the flour, and add to the pot. Turn regularly, until browned all over, and transfer to (my choice!) an enamelled, dimple-topped, casserole. Best done in batches, so as not to overload the pot.
  • Add the sliced onions to the large pot, with the ginger paste, garlic paste, coriander and turmeric powders. Sauté until onions are starting to brown. Transfer to the casserole dish.
  • Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the Nihari Masala over the casserole contents, with salt to taste.
  • Add a few cups of water to the large pot on the stove pot and deglaze – scrape off all those brown bits of flavour! – and pour over the meat and onions. You want enough water to cover the meat.
  • Pop lid on to casserole, and slip into a pre-heated very slow oven (140°C, 275°F, Gas Mark 1). Leave to cook, oh so slowly and gently, for 5 hours, maybe 6, maybe more? The meat should be falling off the bone.
  • Serve hot, in smallish portions (it’s potent and satisfying!), with naan or chapati. And three wee dishes of slivered ginger, lemon/lime wedges, and roughly chopped coriander leaf. And a fourth wee dish of chopped, fresh chilli, if necessary?



*** And I intend trying it out. If necessary, several times over, with my new Pakistani daughter-in-law.

I have once made Baqlawa/Baklava that turned out so well, than an Iraqi friend wanted my recipe to send back to his mother.

We shall see – can I do it again with Nihari?

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