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Mutton Istoo. Pakistani Cooking

Starting today, I will be doing a series on Pakistani cooking all through the year. Why? Because living here, I've had a chance to eat some fabulous food in people's houses. I want to be able to recreate and collate all this deliciousness in my kitchen and also be able to share with the others an opportunity to make them in their homes too.
So while I haven't decided whether I'm only going to do one recipe a month or more, I want to be able to make a chronicle of my experience. 

I'm going to start with one of my favorite recipes from this side of the border - the Mutton Istoo. To be fair, one of my favourite versions of this Istoo is from Al-Jawar in Jama Masjid in Delhi. The meat is so succulent and the onions so sweet that it makes for a deadly meal.

The Pakistani version of the Istoo is slightly spicier than the one at Jama Masjid. But it is just as terrific. The mellow flavours of the chilli, the sweetness from the caramelized onions and the brothiness from the yogurt and the meat makes it a treat to eat. The earthiness of the whole spices - cinnamon, bay leaf - makes it smell heavenly as well. Ofcourse, you can cut back the "hotness" by eliminating the red chilli flakes and just sticking to the mellow heat of the dried red chillies. 

What really takes long with this recipe, is the chopping of the onions. Other than that, you nearly throw everything in together and then wait for it to cook on its own. Yes, ofcourse you can use a pressure cooker to cook the meat, but slow-fire cooking just makes it taste so much more flavourful.

This recipe is from a cookbook I found here and subsequently ended up eating at a friend's house. I hastily wrote a lot down the ingredients that she told me and sat on the recipe until I found a similar sounding recipe in the cookbook as well. The end result? Pretty much the same.

Mutton Istoo
Adapted from Taste of Pakistan cookbook


500 grams lamb meat/ goat meat
750 grams red onions sliced
3 tblsps oil
2 tsps ginger garlic paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1 stick cinnamon
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
4 whole pepper corns
2 tomatoes chopped
8 whole dried red chillies
100 grams yogurt
2 cups water
Salt to taste
1 tblsp desi ghee/ clarified butter

Fresh coriander to garnish
Fresh juliennes of ginger to garnish


1. In a large pot heat oil and add all the sliced onions to eat. Stir fry until translucent.
2. Add all the meat to it and stir fry on high to brown the meat. 
3. Once the meat has browned add the ginger garlic paste, chilli flakes, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, turmeric powder, pepper corns, tomatoes, dried red chillies, salt and cumin seeds. Stir fry for a few minutes. Reduce the heat and add water.
4. Let this mix simmer for 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Add all the yogurt and stir fry on high heat so that the meat starts to leave oil.
5. Check for seasoning. Top with the clarified butter and add the coriander and juliennes of ginger. Serve with hot naan/roti/bread.

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  1. Yay finally. I think I'm going to love it here even more. The ishtoo sounds yum, and even better because of the tales you weave! The call is for more Isloo type goodies!