So from Europe we head East again and back Pakistan, a sovereign country in South East Asia which is officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is the most inhabited country with a population well over 190 million people. The land mass area covers over 790,000 square km which makes it, in relation to area/land mass the 36th largest country in the world. It has a maritime border of approximately 650 miles along the Gulf of Oman in the South and the Arabian Sea. To its East is India, Southwest is Iran, China is Northeast and Afghanistan is to the West.
The country the now we know as Pakistan was previously homeland to many ancient cultures, including the Mehrgarh of theNeolithic and the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilisation. Following this period it was a home to realms ruled by those of different cultures and faiths including Hindus, Indo-Greeks, Muslims, Turco-Mongols, Afghans and Sikhs. Pakistan has been ruled by a number of dynasties and empires and latterly British Empire and as a result of the this the Pakistan Movement – which was a historic and then a winning political movement that aspired for the independence of Pakistan from the British Empire, and to create a new and self governing nation state – Pakistan was created in 1947 as an independent state for Muslims. At first Pakistan was a dominion. However in 1956 Pakistan adopted a new constitution which saw them become an Islamic Republic. In 1971 there was a civil war which resulted in the separation of East Pakistan and become the new country of Bangladesh.
Pakistan comprises of four provinces and four federal territories. It comprises of many languages and many major ethnic groups with similar disparity to its wildlife and geography. It has the seventh largest standing armed forces in the world, is the 26th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power and 45th in terms of nominal GDP (Growth Domestic Product) and is also characterised among the emerging and growth-leading economies of the world.
The cuisine of Pakistan is a sophisticated mix of numerous local cooking traditions of South Asia. It is quite like food from North India, but merges obvious influences/flavours – and more meat orientated – from Middle Eastern and Central Asia. The mix of Mughlai cuisine is by far the most well liked food found in most Pakistani restaurants. Cooking varies from area to area revealing the country’s cultural and ethnic variety. Eastern areas of Punjab and Sindh food can be spicy and greatly seasoned, typical of the tastes of the South Asian region. Food in other parts of Pakistan, particularly Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas also have clear tastes based on various local sways.
Our eldest son – Alastair – trawled the net today to try and find us something to cook and eat and it transpired that our love for Indian and food from this part of the world, we had already, over the many years, have been cooking Asian food already tried and eaten. So tonights brief was to find something we hadn’t had and I believe he did it.. Nihari (Indian beef Stew). Nihari is
“A beef stew popular in the northern region of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Nothing tastes better than aromatic and spice-laden beef stew where the meat is so tender it falls off the bone.”
So here we go, our attempt at this, what looks delightful, Nihari..
Ian began by whizzing up the spices in the blender and boy did they smell good.
Just had to share this picture on the right, loved the filter used that shows the green in the bayleaf standing out from the spices…. 🙂
For this dish we opted for boneless beef as were given the option in the recipe. Placed in a large pot, along with ginger paste, garlic paste, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, salt and cups of water that was left to cook for 2-3 hours.
The aromas from the pan were amazing and filled our kitchen with everything familiar in cooking Indian or Asian food… It was getting dark outside when we started to prepare and cook the curry and I feel that the dish epitomises everything to do with winter…warm stews, spices and aromatic flavours whizzing through the house.
When you are happy that the meat is cooked (2-3 hours later) remove it from the pan and remove the cinnamon stick and set aside and decant the gravy/stock into a jug or bowl whatever you have to hand…
Add oil to the pan – we used Ghee, for a little more authenticity and we love the flavour – naughty but nice.
When the oil/ghee is hot add the onions and cook until translucent, add one cup of the saved stock and cook for a while, add the blitzed spices and the rest of the listed spices. The aromas are now B-E-A-UTIFUL…
Return the meat to pan and add the stock and cook through, add flour mixed with water to thicken up the curry…Alastair and Emily came through the door and said that it smelt amazing… Although the cooking process was around 4 hours it didn’t feel like we had been cooking for that long. As the curry cooked the flavours intensified in my opinion and the gravy/sauce became thick and gorgeous.
The recipe says to simply serve with naan bread, which we did and also we opted for a potato bhajee/fried potato with spices…Add sliced ginger to the top of the curry when served. Not many people eat ginger, but I did with the meat and it I thought it complimented the meat superbly…The potato was a lovely addition to the curry and pleasant change from keep eating rice; so feel we may cook the potato again.Recipes for this sort of potato can be found in many Indian cook books but can let you have the recipe if you wish to know – just contact me…
Family verdict: Absolutely delicious supper, succulent beef and well cooked. Emily – the converted Pescatarian couldn’t get enough of the tender beef. Hubby thought it was beautiful, lovely, excellent, gorgeous (anymore words???) and certainly we will be cooking again. Rory said he could definitely taste the spices and must have enjoyed it as he cleared his plate…A dish well worth the effort and perfect for a chilly winters evening. Why not give it a whirl and let us know whether you enjoyed it as much as we did…
“This curry was like a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that I’d once heard…..especially the last movement, with everything screaming and banging ‘Joy.’ It stunned, it made one fear great art. My father could say nothing after the meal.”