Christmas in Pakistan is always a festive time, not just the Christian community but everyone in my homeland joins in the celebrations. It is a time for rejoicing and an excuse to cook, eat and feed well, much akin to the native food culture of Pakistan.
In Pakistan Christmas is ‘Bara Din’, which translates to the ‘big day’. This day is spent with family and meals aren’t usually the traditional Western fare but mainly traditional Pakistani dishes like biryani, roast spiced lamb or mutton korma. Many Pakistani cultural traditions are attached to Christmas here, making the festivities close to those of other religious communities in the country.
A Pakistani Christmas menu would usually always feature meat as the main dish – legs of lamb and mutton shanks are popular, from slow-cooked rich curries and fragrant rice dishes to spiced marinades. To me, the Pakistani Christmas feast is one which is exotic and aromatic – headily spiced kitchens mingled with the floral aromas of red rose and jasmine garlands, the sounds of clinking glasses, bangles and the scent of henna covered hands.
This recipe is based on a traditional Pakistani/Kashmiri-style leg of lamb, which is marinated overnight with a spicy, fruity mix of coconut, pistachios, raisins and almonds combined with freshly ground garam masala spices. I think this works really well as an alternative to a roast turkey dinner, and I have swapped the raisins with dried cranberries, and opted out of the coconut for a more festive feel. My spice blend includes black cardamom, cloves, mace, red rose petals, black cumin and a paste of fried red onions that adds umami to the marinade.
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