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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nehari & Daal Puris - Meat Stew with Fried Bread

Here is one of my favourite dishes that hails from Pakistan and is also very much at home where I am from in India.  Nehari is a meat stew that is traditionally cooked overnight and usually consumed for breakfast with unleavened bread.  The name Nehari has associations with the early hours of the morning as it was the first meal that would be eaten after sunrise prayers.  Restaurants in Pakistan and India begin the cooking process after the night’s service and their big pots of stew would simmer all night.  As this delicacy is enjoyed not only by the devotees after their religious obligations it does sell out quite early before the morning rush.  You have to be quick to get a serve.  Back home in Kolkata, India, when I was a lot younger, I have memories of my Nana doing the early morning chore (She probably would still do it). Before the sun would rise she would be in that queue with her carry home pot.  When we woke up we would be greeted with the distinct aroma of Nehari and its staple companion in Kolkata – Daal Puris (pronounced ‘poorees’).  These are delicious deep fried breads that are filled with lentils. 
Nehari can contain a variety of different meats – they are usually the off cuts and bones that are slow cooked all night to impart all the flavour and render the meat to its tender goodness. Cuts that can be used in Nehari  can range from Beef soup bones (usually the chuck bones), Lamb Shanks and bones, Osso Bucco and Beef Ribs.  The inspiration that I needed to get this dish on the hob was some fresh cuts of Ox Tail that my local butcher was displaying on a recent visit.  The Ox tail alone would be enough to flavour the dish, but when we do Nehari at our place it is a communal gathering where it is always the more the merrier.  So to boost the flavour and meat content I picked up some Beef Asado (part of the rib).  My theory is as long as you have about 2 kilograms of meat and bones – more bone than meat – you have the base of a good Nehari.  In the case of this particular batch we had enough to feed 10+ people and also plenty leftover.
The Daal Puris are my dad’s speciality – he has perfected his recipe for it over the years and on a Nehari occasion I will provide the soup, he brings the bread.  I will have to get my dad to possibly guest blog for me with his recipe for the Daal Puris so stay tuned for that.  We prepare the lentils the night before and refrigerate the mix so that it is easier to work with the next morning.  Unlike the street sellers of the sub-continent I do not cook my Nehari all night, rather, I get the pot simmering just before I start the current night’s dinner and that way it’s on the hob for about 3 hours which is about sufficient – trust me!
This is a very special dish and while the list of ingredients is quite lengthy, I do urge you to get the right spices to get the best tasting Nehari this side of Kolkata.  If you have Indian or Pakistani friends, chances are they or their parents may have some of the more obscure ingredients.  I am sure they would be happy to part with a tablespoon of spice for a take away bowl of the good stuff.  Go on bribe them!
1kg x Beef Asado, cut into chunks and sealed
1kg x Ox Tail (Or 1 or 2 Osso Bucco pieces), sealed
4 x Onions, sliced
1 Tbsp x Oil
1st Spice Mix: Combine these in a bowl ready to add to the meat.
1 cup x Plain Yoghurt
4 Tbsp x Garlic Paste
4 Tbsp x Ginger Paste
4 tsp x Garam Masala
1 Tbsp x Ginger Powder
8 x Green Cardamoms, bruised so they split open
4 x Black Cardamoms
4 x Bay Leaves
2 x Cinnamon Sticks
2 tsp x Chili Powder
1 tsp x Turmeric Powder
1 Tbsp x Salt 
2nd Spice Mix: These are added just before the water, combine in a bowl for ease 
4 Tbsp x Ground Fennel
1 tsp x Nutmeg Powder
1 Tbsp x Black Salt
3 Litres x Water  
2 Tbsp x Flour mixed into a slurry with -
5 Tbsp x Water  
Ginger - cut in to thin matchstick slices
Coriander Leaves - finely chopped
Chillies (Red & Green) - sliced
Lemon or Limes - quarters for squeezing
In a tablespoon of oil fry the onions gently until they are golden brown.
Remove from the pan and allow to cool.  Blend the fried onions to a puree in a food processor. Keep aside.
Pour all ingredients from the 1st Spice Mix to the stock pot and increase heat stirring continuously. 
Add in the pureed onion prepared earlier.
When the mixture starts to bubble add the reserved sealed meats and bones and bring back to the boil.
Mix in the ingredients of the 2nd Spice Mix and stir through to combine then add the water 1 litre at a time stirring through.
Bring to the boil then lower heat and simmer with a lid on the pot for 3 hours.
Just before serving bring the pot to the boil again and add the slurry of flour and water.  
Stir well to fold the mixture through.  This will not thicken the soup to a gravy but it will impart a bit of colour and an added textural flavour.

Serve hot with garnishes of your choice and eat with fresh hot Daal Puris (Where is the recipe Pa???).  I dare say "store bought" naans
Tip: My Nehari is cooked the night before and allowed to cool on the stove top.  If you have a particular warm kitchen or its a warm night, then I recommended to refrigerate so that it does not spoil.

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