Afghani-style mutton chop karhai with pepper, coriander and cumin

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Aromatic and dry, this traditional karhai recipe is great alternative to a standard takeaway curry. Sumayya's recipe has a tomato-based sauce with garlic, ginger and a dry spice mixture of cumin, coriander and pepper.

First published in 2015

A commonplace dish on British menus is bhuna gosht, usually a dark brown mass of dryish cooked meat or vegetables. The real bhuna (which means ‘to fry’ in Urdu) is a cooking style found mainly in Pakistan, but it isn’t called bhuna gosht, you will normally find dishes resonant of this cooking style going by the name of handi or karhai. It is usually a thick tomato-based sauce, spicy, dry, and aromatic by cooking spices with garlic, ginger and sometimes onions, with the meat or vegetables cooked in their own juices resulting in deep strong flavours and little sauce. This is a recipe for an Afghani-style karhai found on the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, many of the migrants across the borders have contributed to making this style of cooking popular across the country. The key flavour comes from the unique freshly ground spices that go into this dish.





Begin by boiling the mutton chops for 15–20 minutes in a pan of water. Take the chops out and reserve the cooking liquid
In a dry pan, add the cumin, coriander and peppercorns and gently toast over a medium heat until the spices are aromatic. Grind the spices together in a spice grinder or with a pestle and mortar (this will make more than needed for this recipe, but the spice mix can be stored for 1 month in a airtight container)
Heat the ghee in a wok or similar large pan (which has a lid), add the chops and allow to seal on all sides, then set aside. In the same ghee, add the grated ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Be careful not to let it burn, if starting to catch, add a few splashes of the reserved mutton chop water
Add the tomatoes, red chilli flakes, 1 heaped tbsp of the ground spice mix, salt and stir through. Add about 25ml of the reserved mutton water, then return the chops to the pan
Cover the pan and cook over a medium heat until the mixture begins to boil, lower the heat slightly and cook until the mixture becomes thick and dry, with the oil rising to the top
Serve hot with naan or rice, garnished with a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, the chopped coriander and julienned ginger, and some finely chopped green chilli for extra heat, if liked
First published in 2015

Sumayya Usmani is a cookbook author, writer and cookery teacher who specialises in Pakistani cuisine.

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