Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nihari (Eid-ul-Adha dishes/recipes)

Nihari is a heavy brunch menu and it cooks all through the night if made of lamb shanks but chicken is just under an hour.It is excellent for colds and really heart warming and appetizing on a cold winter day.With All the modern fare, cooking Nihari is never an issue but when I was a child  during the eighties Nihari would be such a fuss in Hyderabad.I get vivid memories of my first Nihari and the difficulty I had to remember the name over all the din and excitement at home.

Sugra Bi our cook at Hyderabad was an expert at making it and under my grand aunt's supervision she would do it patiently and lovingly.She had a knack with spices, artfully putting them in a muslin cloth while her green bangles went on tinkling as she handled the deg and all this added to the gala affair.The next mornings brunch would have her tending to all the little chores associated with the nihari and she had a beautiful batua of betel nuts and spices which would keep her going  through the night's labor.The Nihari brunch would have quite a lot of guests the other day and since she stayed in the outhouse she was never in a hurry.The 'deg'(pot/cauldron) would be tended on a wood fire at the back of the house and the wood from the ber(a kind of Indian berry)tree would be used along with the charcoals.While we children went out in the night to peep in at  the woodfire cackling and threatening to lap up  the deg (huge pot/cauldron) we would be reprimanded for coming out in the misty air of the night and ordered to get inside immediately. Her little shenanigans- the sandalwood being scraped with a wee bit of rose water on a granite slab under the moonlight was an interesting thing to watch and this was the secret ingredient to the nihari. Waking up in the morning and rushing off to the backyard to witness the almost dying embers, a hint of the aroma lingering amidst the  bunches of different colored chrysanthemums that smiled  back cheerfully on a winter morning made for wonderful memories.

My grand aunt(aka amma khala) clad  in her  usual crisp white saree with a chikan border would carefully choose the table settings and crockery while the sheermals were wrapped and  piled up and the warm aroma would fill the entire house and garden with an air of festivity. The conversations steered around the food  and (numayesh)  the exhibition that was always an attraction in the winter at the exhibition grounds.
Some people have nihari with varqi roti but sheermals baked with saffron flavored milk  and sweetened with a little sugar  have their own charm..Here in Bahrain I use the pav or dinner rolls slathered with a dollop of  butter and a little nostalgia from the past. So let's get started on this fabulous winter warmer called Nihari.

N.B In Hyderabad you get the potli masala(bouquet garni) for Nihari and qourma called silver potli masala and this makes the task fairly easy if you don't want to make it from scratch.The version of Pakistani Nihari has fewer spices as compared to the Indian nihari and wheat or maida flour is used for thickening and added straight into the gravy skipping the tempering process.

Ingredients for the Nihari Goshth (lamb)/Nihari Murgh (chicken)

1.5 kg lamb shanks cut into 5 inch pcs
*1 ltr mutton stock
3 tbs cooking oil
400 gms yoghurt
3 cups of sliced onion
4 tbs ghee(clarified butter)
Nihari spices include :
2 stone flowers(pathar kay phool - a kind of fragrant moss that grows in mountainous areas)
2 tsp powdered fennel
2 inch cinnamon sticks
2 black cardamom pods
3 bay leaves(tej patta)
3tbs each of ginger garlic paste
1.5 tsp turmeric powder
2.5 tsp chilli powder
5 cardamom pods
1 tsp cardamom powder
1tsp garam masala powder made from equal amounts of cloves, cinnnamon, cardamom
1 pinch each of  powdered mace (javitri) and nutmeg(jaiphal)
2.5 tbs besan(gram/chickpea flour)
salt to suit your taste
few stands of saffron soaked in 2tbs warm milk
1 tsp kewra(screwpine) water
 a pinch of edible sandalwood powder mixed with 2 tsp pure rosewater(optional)
1 bunch fresh coriander finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh mint leaves finely chopped
1 tbs ginger julienne
2 lemons quartered for garnish
2 green chilies finely chopped

Method of cooking

* Make mutton stock by boiling the meat and bones(additional) with a few pepper corns, and onions for 3- hrs on a low flame to extract the flavor Reserve until later.You can also use a ready made carton of  mutton stock.

Heat oil in a lagan or a deep saucepan add the bay leaves followed by cinnamon,cardamom,stone flowers, and fennel seed powder.Add the sliced onions and cook until caramelised  crispy golden.Add the ginger garlic paste and saute till the raw smell of the ginger garlic disappears.Add the lamb shanks and salt and keep stirring from time to time.Let the shanks absorb the aroma of the spices add the chili powder and turmeric powder and cover with the lamb stock, add a little water about a cup and  let it simmer for 2-3 hrs depending on the texture of the meat.When the meat is tender add the whisked yoghurt and half the coriander leaves and cook.Now add the remaining spices,saffron soaked milk,kewra water and the edible sandal wood powder mixed with rose water. Let it simmer for a further 30 minutes on a low flame

In another heavy bottomed pan ( make the 'baghar'- tempering the gravy) heat the ghee and add the besan flour be careful with the flame, the flour should not burn.Stir till lightly brown in color and add to the nihari gravy simmering on a low flame.You could use a long handled strainer to remove the spices from the Nihari when it is done.Serve the Nihari hot in soup bowls with sheermal or varqi roti/paratha, garnished  with ginger, mint,coriander leaves and quartered lemons for a twist of flavor.

Chicken Nihari   Use one whole chicken and replace mutton with chicken stock and the cooking time should be no more than 45 minutes on a low flame to keep the chicken succulent and tender and follow the same procedure.It is an easy chicken recipe that can be made on those really lazy days in winter.


  1. nice post, loved reading it, nihari looks mouth watering

  2. Thank you @ halalfoodie for the warm comments.


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