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Sep 1, 2006 02:48 AM

Kaddo bowrani (Afghani pumpkin)

This dish came up on the Boston board - it's one of the standouts on the menu at the Helmand. I adapted my recipe from one I found on - don't know if it came from an article about the restaurant or not, but that's where I found it.

We eat it a lot in the fall and early winter when sugar pumpkins are available. I've done it with other winter squashes such as acorn or butternut - it works, but it's best with pumpkin. Butternut, especially, makes for a notably wimpier dish. (Nonetheless, we've been known to do it with butternut squash after the fresh pumpkins disappear from shops.)

One 2 to 2.5 pound sugar pumpkin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup plain yogurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt & pepper to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup water

Set the oven at 350.

Cut the pumpkin into quarters. Remove seeds and strings, peel the skin with a vegetable peeler, and cut down into about 2-inch chunks. [DH, who usually gets this job, points out that a harp-style (or "Y-style") peeler works best on the hard pumpkin - the straight vegetable peeler is much more difficult to use.]

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet [I actually use a cast iron dutch oven, which saves transferring to a different pan later on.] Brown the pumpkin pieces, turning frequently, until golden brown (about 5 minutes.) [I brown the pumpkin pretty aggressively in this step, while taking care not to scorch it.]

Transfer pumpkin to a roasting pan. [Since I use the dutch oven, I don't do this!] Mix sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over pumpkin. Cover [with foil if using a roasting pan] and bake for 30 minutes, or until tender.

[This seems like an awful lot of sugar, but go with it - the dish doesn't really come out sweet in the end, and it just isn't as tasty if you cut down on the sugar.]

While the pumpkin is baking, make the yogurt sauce and the meat sauce.

Yogurt sauce: mix together yogurt with one clove of crushed garlic in a bowl; season to taste with salt & pepper.

Meat sauce: in a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and cook the onions until lightly browned. Add ground beef, the second clove of crushed garlic, and salt & pepper. Mix well and cook until beef is browned. Add tomato sauce and water, mix thoroughly and bring to a simmer, lower heat, and cook about 20 minutes until it cooks down to a thick sauce.

To serve: spoon yogurt sauce onto dinner plates, add a portion of the cooked pumpkin, and top with meat sauce. Serves 4. I usually make a bulgur pilaf to go with.

This is so tasty, and really easy. It's one of those meals where the different steps fit together really well - knocking out the yogurt sauce and the meat sauce fits just perfectly into the time that the pumpkin takes to cook in the oven.

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  1. thank you! this is an incredible dish at helmand; i appreciate all the time you put into writing this all up for us. i look forward to making it, though i dread the pumpkin peeling--thanks for your tips.

    now onto your bulgur pilaf secrets ;)

    1 Reply
    1. re: rose water

      Don't know if I have any secrets for bulgur pilaf. It's one of those things I kind of do by feel, and while it always comes out edible it doesn't always come out perfect. It's good enough for me, anyway.

      Brown some chopped onion over medium-high heat (I tend to use a mix of cooking oil with a little bit of butter for the flavor.) Add somewhere between 2 tablespoons and a quarter-cup of pine nuts and/or orzo, brown those but watch out because they scorch in the blink of an eye. Add bulgur - I usually use 1.5 to 2 cups. I stir that around with the onions and kind of toast it. There's a definite sense of playing chicken - I try to get it as toasted as I can without scorching, and it's hard because at this point there's very little oil or moisture left in the pot!

      Add stock - depending on what this is a side dish for, what's on the shelf, and my mood, I'll use chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or a mix. One trick I've been working with recently is to have the stock at a simmer in another pan, as you would for risotto - if the liquid is hot when you add it to the other ingredients they seem to cook better and are less likely to get mushy.

      How much stock? I'm not entirely sure - I think I use a couple of cans worth for the above-mentioned 1.5 to 2 cups of bulgur. If it's not quite enough I add a little water. If it's too much I kick up the flame to try to cook off some of the liquid quickly before the whole thing turns into a savory Wheatina. Cook until the liquid has cooked off and the bulgur is tender - it doesn't take long to finish at this point. If the mixture isn't too wet you can cook off most of the liquid, turn off the flame, and cover the pot to let it finish by steaming.

      I just got a bag of #3 (kind of medium-coarse) bulgur at Massis Bakery. I've been using whatever I get at Shaw's or Whole Foods, and thinking that it tended to be too fine a grind, and that a coarser bulgur would make a better pilaf. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with this. I suspect it will have a better texture but will want a bit more cooking than I've gotten used to.

    2. I promise that peeling the pumpkin with a harp peeler is nowhere near as daunting a process as it sounds!

      As Allstonian mentions, I usually prep the pumpkin for her before she gets home from work. Take a large chef's knife and remove a thin slice from the top (removing the stem) and bottom of the pumpkin. That way, you have a stable platform for the pumpkin on the cutting board and a more tender area across the top for the first cut that halves the pumpkin.

      For larger pumpkins, I use a Chinese vegetable cleaver, but a large and well-balanced chef's knife does the job nicely for the smaller pumpkins that are best with this recipe.

      Anyway, cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom, scoop out the guts, then lay each half cut-side-down on the cutting board and cut them both in half as well. Then simply take your harp peeler (I use an Oxo Good Grips) and start at the top of one of the pumpkin quarters, at one of the cut surfaces. Get under the skin at the top and pull straight down along the curve. You may find it's easier if you try to use about half of the horizontal surface of the blade instead of trying to cut a strip that's fully the width of the blade.

      I was extremely dubious when I first came across the instructions to peel a pumpkin with a vegetable peeler, but I was pleasantly surprised: it really is much easier than you'd think!

      1. WOW - Thanks so much!

        1. For another technique, here's Ruth Lafler's old post on peeling the pumpkins -

          1 Reply
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I guess most Americans have not seen the All Powerful Boti.
            That is the gadget in this pix:

            For slicing and dicing potatos, or daikons, peeling
            squashes, grating coconuts, sectioning fish ... you name it!

            Here is the Pulitzer Prize winning description:

          2. The original comment has been removed