In this Afghan favorite, you bake pumpkin with sugar and cinnamon until it is soft and tender, top it with a mint-flecked, garlicky yogurt sauce and a drizzle of ground beef (or lamb) that’s been cooked in a earthy, spiced tomato sauce, and some flatbread to mop up the sauce. The combination of flavors and textures is both unexpected and addictive.
I fell in love with this wonderfully flavorful, exotic dish the first time I tried it at the Afghan Grill many years ago when I lived in Washington, D.C. It is so good that I never really tried anything else at the restaurant.
I had not eaten kaddo bourani in almost 10 years but when my younger son brought a sugar pumpkin home from a field trip last month, I started daydreaming about it. It’s been so long that I could not even remember what it was called but Yelp came through – I found a description and the name in the first review of the Afghan Grill. Then I came up with the recipe below by picking and choosing the bits I liked from the many different recipes I found online. The hardest part of making this dish is dealing with the pumpkin – peeling it, de-seeding it (save the seeds to roast!), and cutting it up. But it’s not very hard.
You brown the pumpkin in a Dutch oven on the stovetop for a few minutes to give it a little color and caramelization.
Then sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar and move it to the oven with the top on. While the pumpkin is baking, you make the yogurt sauce and get your beef or lamb cooking on the stovetop.
Sauté the onions and garlic until translucent then add the beef, tomato, red pepper flakes, turmeric, coriander, salt and pepper. It doesn't take long for everything to come together. Warm your flatbread and serve. SO GOOD!
For the pumpkin
4 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
1 good-sized (2.5-3 lbs) sugar pumpkin
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the beef
2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1 lb. organic, grass-fed ground beef (or lamb)
1 large yellow onion, diced
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 large tomato, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
pinch of red pepper flakes
1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons sea salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
For the yogurt sauce
2 cups plain yogurt (full fat)
3 teaspoons chopped, fresh mint
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and guts (reserve the seeds for roasting – they're so good and good for you) and scrape away any goopy bits. Peel the pumpkin halves, removing all the rind and any green or hard bits. Cut the pumpkin into 1-inch cubes.
2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and sauté the pumpkin cubes until lightly browned. Turn off the heat and sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon evenly over the pumpkin, stirring to ensure that everything gets coated. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and place it in the oven to bake for 30 minutes or until tender.
3. Make the yogurt sauce. Mix the yogurt, mint, garlic, salt and pepper together and mix to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings then cover and put in the fridge.
4. Make the beef (or lamb). Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the beef and brown for 2-3 minutes then add the rest of the ingredients – tomato, ginger, spices, tomato paste and cook until the liquid has cooked down, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
5. Serve warm with warm flatbread, naan or pita bread.
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