Lamb nihari

Lamb nihari

The Curry Guy

This recipe was sent to me by my friend Usman Butt – executive chef of Imran’s in Birmingham’s Balti Triangle. If you’re a lamb curry fan, this is one you’ve simply got to try. The sauce is quite mild and has a delicious flavour that when teamed with the tender lamb shanks is about as good as it gets.

Lamb nihari is a fantastic all-round option for entertaining. Your guests can add chopped green chillies, lemon juice, julienned ginger and fresh coriander to taste at the table. If you want the curry to be fiery hot, add loads of chillies, or simply go for some of the less spicy options to produce the perfect curry for you.


Quantity Ingredient
4 lamb shanks
125ml rapeseed oil
or seasoned oil
1 whole nutmeg, crushed into smaller pieces
1 tablespoon mace blades
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
3 indian bay leaves (cassia leaves), shredded
2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick or cassia bark, broken into small pieces
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon black onion seeds (nigella seeds)
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
40g unsalted butter
1 onion, sliced into rings
2 generous teaspoons chapati flour

Garnishes for the table

Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons (or more) fine julienne of ginger
2-3 hot fresh green chillies, finely sliced
handful of coriander leaves
lemon wedges


  1. Place the lamb shanks on a plate and rub them all over with ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp of the oil. Set aside while you prepare the spice masala.
  2. This is a raw spice masala so no need to roast the spices first. Put the nutmeg, mace, fennel seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon, peppercorns, black onion seeds, cloves and cumin seeds in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Stir in the paprika, chilli powder and ground ginger.
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over a medium heat. Add the onion rings and fry for about 5 minutes until soft, translucent and lightly browned. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Now pour the remaining oil into the saucepan and brown the lamb shanks for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the browned onions coated with the spices and pour in 1.2 litres warm water.
  6. Arrange the lamb shanks in the saucepan, cover and simmer over a low heat for 3 hours, basting and turning the shanks every 30 minutes. After 3 hours, carefully lift out the shanks into a large, warmed serving bowl. Skim off as much excess oil from the cooking liquid as possible and discard.
  7. Mix the chapati flour with 4 teaspoons water to make a smooth paste. Whisk the paste into the cooking liquid and simmer for 5–6 minutes to thicken. Check for seasoning, add salt to taste and then pour the sauce over the meat in the serving bowl. Serve the garnishes in little bowls on the table to add to the lamb nihari as you like.
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