Pumpkin Recipe 1: Afghan Pumpkin

We are all about pumpkin this week. It’s fall y’all, and even if you’re not the biggest pumpkin fan, we have some delicious recipes that we think might convert you. Pumpkin is such a flexible vegetable; good for savory and for sweet. And that’s why I love the dish I’m making below. It’s both sweet and savory (and spicy if you want it to be). We will be using whole pumpkin, not pumpkin puree that you may be a little more comfortable with. If that’s intimidating, we have some shortcuts for you. Let’s dig in.

The first time I had a legitimate Afghan meal was a year ago on my birthday. My husband and I wanted to try something new and found a trendy Afghan restaurant close to our home. Although we had an idea of what to expect regionally, there were a few exceptional dishes that we didn’t expect. If you like steamed dumplings, you’ll love Afghan mantoos. They’re also steamed and very similar in texture, but with a warmer spice mix and sometimes served with a lovely cream sauce. If you’ve ever had Indian korma (a thick, dark almost stew-like dish), Afghan qorma is just as good, maybe a little better. I tried the lamb qorma, which is the common Indian meat for this dish as well, but the Afghan spices and thickness of the sauce set this dish high on my list. And of course the rice pilaf with caramelized onions, dried fruit, spices, and slow cooked meat is an easy dish to love. It’s so comforting and the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

But one of my favorite dishes of the night was something quite simple: a roasted afghan pumpkin, stew hybrid. Kaddo bourani (or buranee kadoo or other slight spelling variations) has a few different adaptions. You’ll see some that include beef or lamb, while others are vegetarian. I like it both ways, but to keep it simple, we will doing a vegetarian recipe below. When I read how to make this dish, I thought the combo of the sugar and garlic would be weird, but it’s not at all. There are several ways to make this dish, including roasting the pumpkin separately, or adding a meat sauce, or building on the flavor of the roasting pumpkin, which is what we are going to do. I picked this method to keep everything on the stove and in one pot. By keeping it on the stove, you get to stir more often (versus in the oven) so the outside of the pumpkin falls off a bit and helps create the sauce.

This dish is traditionally served with a side of rice or bread, but there are several options here. If you have leftover stewed meat, like a pot roast or even BBQ, this is an excellent side with it. I also think it would be great with a side of roasted potatoes or even mashed potatoes. The sauce this recipe creates is fairly thick, but it is excellent paired with something that wants to absorb those flavors. In short, carbs are definitely this dish’s friend.

If you aren’t comfortable buying a pumpkin and prepping it (cutting, peeling, and taking out the seeds), buying cubed butternut squash from the store will give you basically the same thing. Other winter squashes, like acorn, would also work, and probably even large carrots. But sweet potatoes are a little too dry to give this recipe the moisture and texture it needs. The dish would be good, just different. The main disadvantage to this dish is that it takes awhile to cook. It’s meant to be a low and slow process. So do expect with the prep and cooking to take 45 minutes to an hour. It’s a good dish to make with a couple other low and slow recipes, like a meat entrée or other roasted vegetables (roasted potatoes or brussels sprouts).

Non-traditional add-ons: Nuts and seeds. When I first tried this dish, it came with roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas, so without the white outer layer). Those gave this softer dish a nice crunch. But I had some glazed and roasted pecans that I sprinkled on top of my homemade version and it was amazing. Sugary, sticky pecans, walnuts, or pepitas would all be great additions to this recipe and give it a fall feel. If you don’t have plain yogurt to make the cream sauce, sour cream wouldn’t be a bad alternative. And to be honest, the garlic sauce in the recipe has a ranch vibe to it. I’m not telling you to put ranch on this lovely recipe, but I’m also not going to scold you for it. (Thin it out with a little water or milk if you’re going that route though) This dish, overall, is perfect with a weekend meal and definitely worth thinking about as a nice potluck side option.

Afghan Pumpkin Recipe

Servings: 4 large side portions; time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Neutral oil, like vegetable or canola
  • 2 lbs of pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, cubed into 1/2 inch cubes, seeds removed
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 large tomato, diced. Or about a half can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 jalapeno, minced. Adjust amount depending on heat preference. Use red pepper flakes if you don’t have a fresh jalapeno.
  • 1-2 cups of broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup of plain yogurt; European or Greek. Greek thinned with a little water or milk
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Mint, fresh or dried, finely chopped
  • Topping options: glazed nuts (like pecans or pepitas), cilantro
About 15 minutes in. The pumpkin should have some brown color and the sauce should start to thicken here. Eventually the pumpkin will start to give off a little of its outer layer to improve the sauce even more.

Instructions:

Pumpkin mixture: In a Dutch oven or a large pot, head oil to medium. Add pumpkin and let cook until some corners start to brown, about 10 minutes. Add onion and cook for 5 more minutes. Sprinkle in sugar and cinnamon and stir. Let cook for another 5 minutes then add tomatoes and pepper. Cook and stir for a few minutes. Then add 1 cup of broth, tomato paste, and spices. Stir a few times to incorporate and cover with lid. Turn heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Check mixture, add more broth if sauce is too thick and starting to burn in pot. Cook for another 10 minutes if needed. Pumpkin should very easily be pierced with a fork when done.

Yogurt sauce: While the pumpkin is cooking, in a bowl, mix yogurt, minced garlic, mint, and some salt and pepper. Thin Greek yogurt with water or milk if using. Taste for flavor. Set aside. The yogurt sauce works well when it isn’t too cold.

Once pumpkin is cooked, transfer to a large bowl and drizzle yogurt sauce on top. Top with other items like nuts or cilantro if desired. Best served with warm bread, like pita, or rice pilaf.

We have a few more pumpkin recipes throughout the week. Let us know how you like to incorporate fall veggies into your cooking and baking!

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