Nihari inspired beef and tomatillo curry

I wonder if I would have more cookbooks if I didn’t have the internet. There are so many recpies avaliable at the click of a button it is just amazing. I stumbled across a Pakistani curry, Nihari. It isn’t just any curry it is the national dish of Pakistan with a long history. I didn’t realise this when I decided to give it go and I only read up on it after I had hmm.. made some changes to the recipe. Here is the recipe I found on and I really liked the Garam Masala spice mix and I knew I had to give this a go.

This morning when we woke up it was sunny and beautiful. I thought we were in for a late Indian summers day but before I knew it the sea mist rolled in and it got so cold it was a perfect curry day. I picked up some shin of beef from the butcher, it is a great cut for slow cooking. The recipe calls for lamb but I couldn’t resist the beef. There was a glut of tomatillos and I wanted to use these as well so here is my version.




Tradition says the curry cooks overnight but I cooked it during the day. Once the curry gets cooking you can just leave it and just check in every now and then. The only thing you need to think of is to use a pan with a tight fitting lid.


Nihari inspired curry with beef and tomatillos

preparation time 10 minutes 

cooking time 5 1/2 hours 

serves 4


The Garam Masala

  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 grated nutmeg
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick

The curry

  • 1 kg shin of beef, trimmed of most fat and cut in to large chunks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 chillies, seeds in, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 4 dl water
  • oil for cooking
  • 2 dl or 1 cup of quatered tomatillos
  • coriander/cilantro
  • 1/2 dl or 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup or 1/4 cup water
  • 20 gr butter or ghee

Place the dry Garam Masala spices, except the poppy seeds and the cinnamon stick, in a spice grinder and blend.




Set the spice blend aside and place the poppy seeds and 1 tbsp of water in the spice grinder. Blend to a paste and mix with the other spices.


Nihari spice mix 01Nov_NihariSpicePaste


Heat oil in a pan and slowly caramelise the sliced onions.




Remove the onions from the pan and brown the meat. remove the onions and the meat, add a little more oil if necessary and add the Nihari spice mix. Let it cook for about a minute and add the ginger, garlic and chilli along with the meat, the cinnamon stick and the onions.

Add water and bring the curry to a boil. Put the lid on and let simmer for about 5 hours. Check in every now and then so it doesn’t get dry and taste, add salt if needed.

When the meat is cooked take it out of the curry. Mix flour and water and add this to the curry. Let it boil out and the sauce will start to thicken, this should take 10-15 minutes, add the quatered tomatillos at the same time. Add the meat back with the coriander and the butter. Heat through and serve with bulgur wheat or rice and a grapefruit raita.




I know it wasn’t a strictly traditional curry, the tomatillos were a great addition to an otherwise meat heavy dish. The spices made the sauce very rich despite being water based, I did worry about this but it all came together. The butter in the end softened the curry flavours and made it nice and glossy, don’t skip this stage.


I am bringing this dish to Throwback Thursday that you will find on The Frugal Haus Frau‘s blog this week. Check out the blog as well, it is full of inspiring recpies!







11 Responses to “Nihari inspired beef and tomatillo curry”
  1. heenie says:

    you made me hungry…. I LOOOOOVEEE Nihari 🙂

    • petra08 says:

      Oh am so glad to hear from someone who knows what it is! It is so delicious and all you need is time and well, a bunch of spices but it is so worth it 🙂

  2. skd says:

    Beautiful twist to the traditional nehari Petra. It is usually made with lamb trotters. Your version with beef looks amazing 👍☺

    • petra08 says:

      Lamb trotters? I had no idea, the recipe called for lamb shanks but why not the trotters. I guessed that it originally is a dish for labourers but the complex spice mix is delicious! 🙂
      The beef did work a treat but I must try it with lamb once as well! 🙂

  3. chefjulianna says:

    Yum! This is right up my alley, Petra! I will have to give it a go once we get settled in our new home…only a few weeks now!

    • petra08 says:

      hi Julianna
      I can’t wait to see what you will be cooking in your new kitchen!
      This curry is a keeper and I am so glad you like it! 🙂

  4. petra08 says:

    hi Jack
    Thank you! This curry is one of my favourites 🙂

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  1. […] by Pakistani food, Petra at Food Eat Love has this delicious looking Nihari inspired beef and tomatillo curry.  I have to try […]

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