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Kaddo bowrani (Afghani pumpkin)

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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 boston.com - 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 -
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I guess most Americans have not seen the All Powerful Boti.
            That is the gadget in this pix:
            http://www.sos-arsenic.net/images/nah...
            http://dept.arth.upenn.edu/nalin/40.html

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

            Here is the Pulitzer Prize winning description:
            http://arafat.blogspot.com/2006/07/ub...

          2. Allstonian, you're awesome! That dish at Helmand is amazing! My girlfriend and I get it each time we go there

            1. Thanks Allstonian! Thank you so much for posting
              the recipe. We, too, love THE HELMAND . On a recent trip to Baltimore, we dined there 3 times and each time was wonderful.

              How did you "adapt" the recipe? What is changed?

              I ordered the Kaddo every time. It is an amazing dish. DH had the Rack of Lamb and it was perfect.

              You should post the recipe on the Baltimore Board. I know they would appreciate it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Fleur

                Most of my changes are noted in my bracketed comments above, and have to do with technique. There is one ingredient change - the original recipe specified browning the pumpkin in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and the onions and ground beef for the meat sauce in 1/4 cup canola oil. I couldn't see any reason for specifying two different neutral cooking oils for the two items, and 1/4 cup of oil to brown 2 onions and a pound of ground beef seemed like WAY more cooking fat than was actually needed.

                Feel free to post a pointer in the Baltimore board - my understanding is that recipe posts belong here in Home Cooking.

              2. Here's a link to the actual Helmand recipe (from the San Francisco branch of Helmand) -- it's delicious:

                http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                14 Replies
                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Thanks Ruth for posting the article. The recipe for KADDO a la HELMAND is a must try. The other recipes for Pumpkin look interesting as well. How nice that Autumn is almost upon us and piles of glorious orange Pumkins await us.

                  Is there a site that shares recipes from different newspapers Food Section?

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Interesting - there are a lot of differences, and it's clear that the Boston Globe recipe is a much simplified version. I'll stick by my preparation of the pumpkin, which is simpler, takes less time, and yields a fine result. The meat sauce in the San Francisco recipe looks a lot better, though (and I've always wondered why there wasn't a little mint in the yogurt!)

                    1. re: Allstonian

                      With the SF version, the pumpkin becomes almost jelly-like and almost translucent, like the transcendent version served at the restaurant. At other Afghan restaurants I've tried locally, the pumpkin stays firmer and still tastes vegetal liked baked squash. Maybe the use of more oil and sugar and roasting technique makes that difference.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I'm sure it does make the difference. The version I've had at the Cambridge Helmand is more like the latter (sweet, but still squash-like) rather than candied, so that's certainly the result I'd expected (and got) from my recipe. I'd be interested in the SF version, but I'm not sure it would stay a main dish if I did it that way!

                      2. re: Allstonian

                        bumping this thread up...our sugar pumpkins from our pumpkin patch are starting to come in, and am searching for ways to use them. i noticed that allstonian's version of kaddo with the SF-helmand version differ in that the SF version does not call for browning the pumpkin in the pan before baking. has anyone tried both methods and found a difference?

                        i'm thinking of trying to hit a middle ground by adding more sugar than allstonian but less than the SF version, and baking at 350 or somewhat higher. and then scooping out the cooked pumpkin, rather than peeling it while raw... (not having a harp peeler, and being somewhat lazy.)

                        1. re: autopi

                          We've tried it both ways and I really prefer the browned-in-pan version by a wide margin: the Maillard reaction is our friend.

                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                            thanks for the report. guess i won't be skipping that step after all.

                            1. re: autopi

                              For one thing, if you peel the pumpkin (and believe me, I agree that it's a PITA!) and brown the chunks first, it gives them a bit of a skin, and enough physical integrity to stay intact through cooking. If you roast first and then scoop out cooked pumpkin, you may well end up with something more like mashed pumpkin.

                              BTW, I've been experimenting with using more sugar than stated above, though still not nearly as much as in the SF recipe. More like 1/2 cup sugar to 2 pounds of pumpkin. The thing is, while I don't care for the "almost candied" effect of the SF recipe, if you skimp on the sugar the pumpkin can turn out rather bland, which is a shame. You definitely want a noticeable sweetness.

                              1. re: Allstonian

                                yeah, i was thinking about the mashed pumpkin aspect of it. 1/2 c. sugar for a small pumpkin sounds about right to me; i don't think i'd want candied pumpkin, at least as a major component of a dish. given how awash we are at the moment in tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, chard and the rest of it, it's hard to imagine fall cooking. but the pumpkins are big and ripe now, so...

                                1. re: Allstonian

                                  A hint for working with pumpkins: I sometimes put the whole pumpkin in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at a relatively low temperature which makes it easier to cut and also makes the skin come off easier. I don't keep it in there long enough to cook, just long enough to make the outside a bit softer.

                                  1. re: amandalael

                                    You can also use the no-fail peeling method common to butternut squash: dunk the squash/pumpkin into a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 minutes. It's just enough to soften the skin and make it super easy to use a standard veggie peeler, while maintaining the structural integrity of the squash/pumpkin.

                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Ruth,

                          This is the recipe that I have on file. We love The Helmand in Baltimore, and order the Kaddo every time we go.

                          The only thing is, the recipe calls for 3 CUPS OF SUGAR!!! for two 2 lb sugar pie pumpkins.

                          I have the pumpkins lined up on my counter. I found beauties at Garden of Eden and Fairway, but I am kind of afraid to make a recipe with 3 cuos of sugar for 4 lbs of pumpkin.

                          Have you actually made it this way?

                          1. re: Fleur

                            Yes. I've had kaddo at other Afghan restaurants and I believe that the use of a lot of sugar and oil is what makes SF-Helmand's so unique in texture. It turns into a near confection.

                            Edited to add: just looked at my post from Sept 2, 2006 above where I said nearly the same thing. You might ask at your local Helmand if they follow the same recipe.

                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                            URL correction...
                            http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Hu...

                            Recipe is on page 2.

                          3. Hi,
                            I live in the suburbs of Boston. Where would I find Sugar Pumpkin? Or, does it go by another name, or I'm I just dense and a sugar pumpkin is a normal halloween pumpkin? We've never cooked with pumpkin before....

                            Your reciped sounds great and we really want to try it!
                            Thanks,
                            Ally Cat

                            1. Sugar pumpkins look exactly like jack o'lantern pumpkins, only smaller. They're basically just a smaller, sweeter version of the same thing. You want one that weighs somewhere around two and a half pounds, which is...hm, I'd say about the size of a good cantaloupe.

                              I'd try either Russo's in Watertown or Arena Farms in Concord, both of which have a lot of sugar pumpkins this time of year.

                              1. For those who have prepared Kaddo at home: Did you serve it as a first course as they do at THE HELMAND , or as a main dish? What did you serve it with?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Fleur

                                  I've served it as a side dish (with the yogurt sauce but not the meat sauce). It was a big hit at Thanksgiving and also when I brought it to the chowhound picnic.

                                2. I make it as a main dish, with afghan style basmati rice and naan on the side.

                                  1. I was thinking about making this dish for a vegetarian group that's coming over tomorrow night. I was wondering what you all might serve with it to round out the meal. Also, has anyone noticed a big difference between the SF recipe and the Boston recipe. They differ quite a bit in their technique and contents, I'm wondering how they differ in terms of the final product.

                                    Thanks!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: China

                                      We usually serve it with a bulgar pilaf, maybe a green salad and Afghani bread on the side.

                                      1. re: China

                                        Because I was making this on a week night I used the Boston version of roasting the pumpkin and the SF version for the meat sauce. The SF version had a lot more spices which I found more interesting. It came out quite well. Are you going to use a meat substitute, because I would be concerned that the sweetness of the pumpkin needs to be cut by something to balance it.

                                        1. re: MalinDC

                                          The last time I made kaddo I prepared the pumpkin my way (adapted from the Boston version and sweet but not "candied" the way the *very* sugar-heavy San Francisco recipe comes out,) but I did the SF versions of the yogurt and meat sauces (except that I stuck with Boston's tomato sauce rather than SF's fresh tomato plus tomato paste - we're past the short season of decent fresh tomatoes here in Boston, and it's not worth it to use flavorless pink tomatoes.) I did definitely prefer the SF meat sauce and it was no more time-consuming than the way-too-simplified Boston version.

                                      2. This is awesome, thanks! Now if only I could find a recipe for Helmand's rocking banjan eggplant dish, i could die happy.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: litchick

                                          This links to an NY Times recipe for Banjan, not sure if its Helmand's though. Perhaps I'll make this with the Kaddo Bowrani and report back.

                                          http://www.jewishfood-list.com/recipe...

                                          1. re: China

                                            Ah, spectacular! The treatment of the eggplant (broil, then slightly stew) looks like it will yield that smoky yet melting quality of Helmand's. The sauce is different (I think H's is a kind of ground tomato sauce spooned over the top, along with the yogurt sauce underneath), but this certainly looks delicious and worth a try! Definitely report back and let us know how yours turned out. ;)

                                        2. Just reporting back on the Kaddo Bowrani and the Banjan. Both dishes were very tasty. The yogurt nicely balances the sweetness of the squash making for a fantastic complex taste for very little effort. The Banjan recipe posted above was good too. Although not super smoky, this may be because I have an electric broiler which may brown the eggplant differently. Overall though a nice balance of flavors and a good contrast with the Bowrani. Also made a pilaf with basmati rice, cardamom, corriander, cloves, and a bay leaf which went well. A friend brought a spicy indian chickpea dish which rounded out the meal perfectly. Thanks to you all for your help in putting this together. I'll definetely make it again.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: China

                                            Thanks for reporting back, China. I was going to remark that I've never made the meat sauce -- I just serve it with the yogurt sauce, and the garlic and herbs, plus the tanginess of the yogurt, balance the sweetness of the pumpkin perfectly.

                                          2. bumping this excellent old thread to ask about how much pumpkins equal in canned pumpkin
                                            2 Sugar Pie pumpkins, each about 3 pounds = good quality canned organic pumpkin?

                                            and wondering if anyone uses this afghan recipe on non-pumpkin winter squash, which I have more access to . . .
                                            THX

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: pitu

                                              I think you could probably use it on butternut squash -- they're often interchangable. I wouldn't try it on some of the more watery winter squashes. I'm not sure about your other question -- you do realize this recipe has to be made with whole pieces of fresh pumpkin/squash, not pureed, right?

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                Thank you Ruth Lafler!
                                                I realize nothing...other than someone was raving to me about Afghan pumpkin and asking me how to make it, so I started looking around the Home Cooking board....

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  Allstonian and I have tried making kaddo with various types of hard winter squash (we get a wide variety of squashes from our CSA every year -- we have something like six different kinds down in the mudroom right now!) but for some reason, it just never quite satisfies the way the sugar pumpkins do. It's still very good, but it's not fabulously transcendent.

                                                2. re: pitu

                                                  We just made this this weekend with a heirloom squash similar to butternut, but the flavor is a bit more assertive than some butternut. We did a riff on the Boston pumpkin prep and the SF sauce. Fantastic! This will be a regular for us - well as regular as things are with Chowhounds always introducing new ideas : ).

                                                  1. re: jsaimd

                                                    I, too, recently made this for the first time. If it were not for the amount of sugar the pumpkin absorbs, I would make this once a week throughout the fall. Just wonderful...the kind of wonderful you'd consider rolling around in.

                                                3. I made this tonight and just want to say thank you for all the great advice! I followed Allstonian's directions for the pumpkin (although I cut it into wedges rather than large chunks), as I wanted a less-rich main dish, and the Helmand SF/Chronicle recipe for the meat and yogurt sauces. It came together very quickly, not a typical weeknight meal for us but I will certainly make this again when I can carve out the time, and while pumpkins are still available.

                                                  1. I'm bumping this old thread because I was sharing the recipe with a FB friend and realized that I've made some revisions, based on the SF Gate recipe that Ruth Lafler linked to [http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3224...], and I think my current version is a significant improvement on my original.

                                                    If you prefer a vegetarian version, you can omit the meat from the meat sauce and make it as a plain tomato sauce instead. In that case reduce the water to 1/4 cup.

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

                                                    1 cup plain yogurt
                                                    1 clove garlic, crushed
                                                    1/2 teaspoon dried mint
                                                    Salt & pepper to taste

                                                    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
                                                    2 medium onions, chopped
                                                    1 pound lean ground beef
                                                    1 clove garlic, crushed
                                                    1 1/4 teaspoons ground coriander seed
                                                    1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
                                                    1 teaspoon ground black pepper
                                                    salt to taste (1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons)
                                                    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. [Jenny Ondioline, 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.

                                                    [The amount of sugar is flexible - the pumpkin in some versions of the dish is almost candied, which requires the full amount. I prefer it less candied, but the dish will be bland if you go much below 1/2 cup of sugar.]

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

                                                    Yogurt sauce: mix together yogurt with the mint & 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, garlic, coriander, turmeric, salt, and 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.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                                      Thanks for the update! I usually just use a paring knife to peel the pumpkin, but it depends on how thick or rough the skin is (thicker/rougher skins are easier to remove with a knife).

                                                      1. re: Allstonian

                                                        Thank you for this. I will definitely be trying it out.

                                                        1. re: Allstonian

                                                          Many thanks for bumping this thread up with your update, Allstonian, I don't remember seeing the original way back when. Perfect timing for the season.

                                                          1. re: Allstonian

                                                            Thanks again Allstonian. How much sugar do you think makes this dish the best?

                                                            1. re: elise h

                                                              If you've had this dish at the original San Francisco Helmand on Broadway, then you need the full amount of sugar to achieve the translucent, candied/confit'd pumpkin texture, as noted in my earlier posts. But if you've tried this dish at Salang Pass and other local Afghani restaurants where it is more vegetal and prefer that instead, you should reduce the sugar. The latter versions are not as unique to me. It really depends on your individual taste.

                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                Yep - what Melanie said.

                                                                One thing that factors in is the context in which you'll be serving it - in the Boston-area Afghani restaurants it's offered both as an appetizer and as a side dish. I think if I were making this as an appetizer I would be more likely to use the highest amount of sugar and go for the candied effect. But I usually actually make this as an entree, so I go for less sugar. Even so, you really need at least 1/2 cup, or the dish will be dull.

                                                                1. re: Allstonian

                                                                  You make an excellent point about where in a meal this dish will fall and how big a serving it will be. I tend to serve it as an appetizer so want to go for maximum "pop". I like hearing the feedback when dinner guests have the first bite, moan, and then ask what they're eating. It's so transformed, most people don't know that they're eating a piece of squash, and I get a big kick out of that.

                                                                  I've not re-read all the older posts in this thread, so apologies if this is a repeat. One of the best tips I've read on Chow is a timesaver for this recipe. Microwave the raw pumpkin/squash for a few minutes. This softens the skin a little bit and makes it much easier to peel and to cut into pieces. I cook with hard squashes much more now after learning this.