Warm, earthy and spice filled Mutton Nihari is a luxurious stew for the meat lovers! As the meat cooks, the gravy turns buttery with a gorgeous red hue. Topped with some fried onions, julienned ginger, green chili and finely chopped cilantro! This dish can be a showstopper at any party.
I have heard of this dish many times in the past but I never felt the urge to attempt it. Until a few weeks back. I came across a beautiful promo of a cooking show called Raja Rasoi Aur Andaaz Anokha by chef Ranveer Brar. In the promo, he was cooking Mutton Nihari and even though it showed only a few glimpses, it was enough to inspire me.
After reading several recipes and articles I learnt that Nihari is a traditional Muslim dish that came from the Royal Kitchen of Mughals. Over the period of time, the dish migrated to different regions which each making several little twists of their own. Nihari comes from the Arabic word “nahar” which means “morning”. In the Mughal days, this dish was prepared over night. Slow cooked for several hours and then served for breakfast to the Nawabs. Can you imagine eating something this rich for breakfast! Those Nawabs surely had some lavish appetite.
Kosha Mangsho has always been my favorite mutton stew and this Mutton Nihari gives a very close competition to my favorite. It’s extremely unique in terms of the steps that go in preparing the stew and the garnish. These steps cannot be ignored as they are essential to the dish.
Few Key Points!
- This mutton stew is a labor of love. So, try not to rush and you have to slow cook it in old fashion way. Use a heavy bottom pan!
- Once the mutton is cooked, you have to let it rest and cool down completely. This step will create a thick layer of oil on top, which you have to carefully scoop and leave aside to be used for garish.
- The spice mix that goes in the dish is the key to making the dish so earthy and aromatic instead of being hot and making you sweat. There are a few variations of the spice mix. I just picked every kind of whole aromatic spices that I love using in any rich meat curry.
- The fried onion and julienned ginger at the end can be skipped but I would recommend you to definitely use it. The fried onion adds a mild sweetness that balances out with the spices that go in. The ginger bites just add to the warmth at the back of your tongue.
- In several recipes that I read, Ghee is used to prepare the Nihari. I used mustard oil because that’s what I saw Chef Ranveer using and when I cook mutton in Bengali style, I always go with the mustard oil. So, it just felt right. But, you could surely use ghee instead of mustard oil.
There is a lot of history and traditions around this dish and the dish does take some extra time and effort. But at the end, when the aroma starts to warm your kitchen, you will realize it was all worth it!
- 1.5 lb. mutton bone-in cubes
- 1½ big red onion, 14.7 oz/ 417 g, very thinly sliced
- 1½ tablespoon freshly grated ginger and garlic
- 1- tablespoon mustard oil
- vegetable oil to fry the sliced onion
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- 1- teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 1- inch fresh ginger, finely julienned
- 2 green chili, chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons water
for the Nihari Spice mix
- 3 dry red Kashmiri chili, this only adds the rich red hue without making the dish hot
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon bark
- 7 green cardamoms
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 black cardamom
- ½ teaspoon clove
- Prepare the spice mix first. Place a pan on medium high heat and sauté the whole spices for about 20 seconds. Let it cool down for a while before grinding it into fine powder. Keep it aside to be used later.
- Place a heavy bottom pan on medium heat and pour the mustard oil. Once the oil heats up, drop 3/4th of the sliced onion (save the rest for garnish). Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt and stir. Cook the onion for 2 minutes and then, add the grated ginger garlic (not the julienned ginger) and sauté for another 3 minutes.
- Scatter the mutton cubes, sprinkle the entire bowl of the ground spice (prepared earlier) and toss it around to mix everything. Sprinkle the turmeric, ½ teaspoon of salt and sugar. Toss around and mix everything.
- Cook the meat in medium heat for about 5 minutes. The spices should be cooked through by then and you should see oil separating. Pour 4 cups of water and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir around and bring the water to a boil at high heat. Then, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan and let it simmer for 1 and ½ hours.
- While the mutton simmers and gets tender, prepare the fried onion. Place a pan with enough oil to deep fry the sliced onion. It will take about 10 minutes for the onion to turn golden brown. Make sure you pay close attention to the onion and keep stirring occasionally as it get can turn from brown to black pretty fast. Once done, take it off using a slotted spoon into a plate layered with kitchen towel. Keep it aside to be used later for garnish.
- To the same oil, drop the julienned ginger for a few seconds and take it off into a separate plate layered with kitchen towel.
- After 1 and ½ hours, the meat should be cooked through and tender. If not, continue cooking the meat. Once the meat is cooked through, switch off the heat, uncover the pan and let it cool down completely. Do not stir as the stew cools down because this process will create a layer of oil on top. It should take about 10 minutes to cool down completely.
- Once you see the red hue layer on top, take a spoon and carefully scoop it out into a different bowl. Then, turn on the heat and bring the meat to simmer again.
- In a bowl, prepare the roux by mixing the flour with water until there are no lumps. Pour this mixture in the stew, little by little, and keep stirring as you do so. Mix around the roux and let the stew simmer for another 10 minutes. This process will thicken the gravy.
- At this stage, check for salt and add any, if needed. Finally, add half the chopped green chili and cook for 2 minutes.
- For serving, ladle the stew into your serving bowl, drizzle the fat that was kept aside, followed by fried onion, julienned ginger, green chili and some finely chopped cilantro.
- Serve it warm with your choice of rice or bread.
Follow the key notes that I mentioned in the detail post
I love to see your creation from my blog, so if you make this spice mixes, tag me on social media @playfulcooking.