This dish is a change from the norm, but ’tis the season to show off pumpkins. Today’s dish is kaddo bourani, which originates in Afghanistan.
Now I’m going to guess that you’re in one of two crowds in your reaction to this dish: (1) I’ve never had Afghani food before and have absolutely no idea what its like or (2) I’ve had Afghani food before from some amazing restaurant called Helmand and they had something just like this!
Well to the number oners, Afghani food is really tasty. My impression of it is sort of like Indian food as far as flavor and style goes, but “drier” (compared to the more stew-like curries that we all know and love). Definitely worth trying if the opportunity ever presents itself. To the number two folks out there, my first (and sadly only) exposure to Afghani food was at Helmand in the Boston area, and yes, that place was excellent and I had a memorable meal. There’s a reason that this dish looks familiar–it comes from the original recipe which got me very excited as this dish was one of their creations that I had the pleasure of eating when I was in Boston (and I still remember two years later!).
This dish is intended to be an appetizer (and is served as such at The Helmand), but you could always go the lazy route, eat a larger portion, and call it a light meal (which is what I did 😮 ). So by now, you’re probably wondering what is it like? Basically, the already sweet pumpkin is further sweetened and cooked long and slow to the point where it just wants to fall apart. It is then topped with a tangy yogurt-based sauce (spiked with garlic and mint for a surprisingly balanced, delicious taste–again, coming from somebody who isn’t a big fan of yogurt) and finished off with tomato-based, lightly spiced beef sauce. With all of these components together, you get a really interesting presentation and an incredible marriage of flavors that’s strange to read about but a pleasure to taste. I’m sure other Helman patrons out there can back me up on this one. 😉
- 1 sugar/pie pumpkin, about 3-5 lbs
- 1/8 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup sugar
- Yogurt Sauce
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 tsp dried mint
- at least 1/4 tsp salt
- Tomato Meat Sauce
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 shallots
- 1-1.5 lbs ground beef
- 1 large tomato
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1.25 tsp ground coriander
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 1/3 cups water
The most laborious part of this recipe is prepping your pumpkin, so between that and the long baking time, start this well in advance. Also, on the note of pumpkins, be sure to get a sugar/pie pumpkin because getting a gigantic decorative pumpkin will really make this dish pretty bland.
With a vegetable peeler or a small knife, peel off the rind of the pumpkin. Its ok to take a little “too much” off as that part is still rind-like as well (like the white part of a watermelon).
Once you’ve peeled as much off as you can, cut your pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and stringy fibers. And of course, be sure to save your seeds for an easy snack!
Preheat your oven to 300?F and slice your pumpkin into about 8 pieces. Now this part will raise some eyebrows: coat your pumpkin pieces with all of that oil and then coat it with all of that sugar. Yes, you read the amounts correctly–it is a lot and it seems like there’s no way this can work (if you can believe it, I actually reduced the original amount of sugar from 1.5 cups to 1 cup!). Just rub it all on and lay each piece hollow-side up in a pan and cover the whole thing with some aluminum foil.
Let the pumpkin pieces bake until they turn dark and translucent. They should become really tender, but that will cost you at least 3 hours in the oven. Baste the pieces once with the pan juices after about 2.5 hours of baking. See why I suggested you start early? Slow cooking the pumpkin in all of that sugar and oil is going to not only bring out the pumpkin’s own natural juices, but it will also carmellize and absorb all of those sugars. Mmm, very healthy fruit. 😮
Now, to prepare the yogurt sauce, you really don’t have a lot of work to do. Simply mix the yogurt, finely minced garlic, dried mint, and salt. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. I know–good thing you have 3 hours to get this step done!
The other component to prepare for this dish: the meat sauce (you mightlvery well have extra meat sauce leftover relative to the pumpkin and yogurt sauce). You’ll want to start this close to the time when your pumpkins should be coming out of the oven (e.g. 30 minutes prior), as you want both the pumpkins and this sauce to be hot. The original recipe called for a large onion, but much to my dismay, onions are not allowed in my kitchen (which is why you’ll see me so often using chives, scallions, or shallots instead 😉 ), so instead I went with shallots.
Whatever you’re using (onions vs shallots), mince it pretty finely and brown in a saucepan with all of the oil on medium-high heat. Add the beef and keep that crumbled and moving, cooking until no longer pink. Seed and peel your tomato and then finely chop it and mince your garlic cloves. Add these and everything else (except for the water and tomato paste). After about five minutes, add your water and tomato paste, heat things up so that the water starts boiling (shouldn’t take long), and finally lower the heat and let all of this simmer together for about 15 minutes. Things should go from looking meaty to looking pretty saucy.
Just before serving, taste your yogurt sauce and add more salt to taste. Arrange one or more slices of pumpkin per plate (depends if you intend this to be an appetizer or a meal–I chose the latter, hence my larger serving), drizzle and spread at least 2 tablespoons of yogurt sauce on top and around the plate, and finally, the arc de triomphe, top with a good sized scoop of meat sauce. Yes, serving the yogurt sauce cold while everything else is hot seems a little strange, but it will warm up really quickly and if it started out any warmer, it would be pretty messy.