2 adorable pumpkins in our farm share were hard to cook for 2 reasons: one, they were so cute! And, two, they were impossible to get open. I had to use 3 different knifes, finally resulting to my heavy-duty cleaver, and the process was more like splitting firewood than chopping vegetables. The pumpkins had a very hard rind on them, which made peeling them out of the question, but scooping the flesh out of the little wooden bowls once it was cooked was easy enough. I have had it in my mind to make this Afghani (is that correct when referring to cuisine?) dish of roasted pumpkin and yogurt sauce, so I took to the interwebs to find some recipes. I will never again waste a pumpkin on halloween decorations….this was too good!
They all had some common themes, and I used the general ideas to shape my cooking process, but of course did not adhere to the rules, as usual. The first surprise is that you have to bake the pumpkin with quite a lot of sugar – actually candying the pumpkin…..so not as healthy as the dish would seem at first glance. All the recipes also noted serving it with a tomato-meat sauce on top, which is not how I’ve had it in restaurants, but I thought I’d try it. I ended up using some chorizo sausage that I had in the freezer, and sautéed that with garlic, crushed tomatoes, smoked paprika and salt/pepper. I have no idea if this would come close to the “authentic” dish, but it was a great compliment to the sweet pumpkin and tangy yogurt sauce.
2 Sugar Pie pumpkins, each about 3 pounds
2 tbsp corn oil
2 C sugar
salt to taste
For the yogurt sauce
2 C plain yogurt (I drained mine for an hour in some cheese cloth for a thicker sauce, but I don’t think that is traditionally done)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp salt
For the meat sauce (this is a recipe from the internet, but as I mention above, I followed my own path. If you try it, let me know!)
1/4 C corn oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 large tomato, seeded and finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/3 C water
Wash off the outside of the pumpkins. Cut them in half, an axe would help here – seriously, be ready for some serious struggle. I think that if I didn’t have a cleaver, I would have resorted to dropping them out of our window onto the sidewalk to crack them open. Scrape out seeds and strings. Cut the halves into 3″-4″ pieces or so. Peel them if you can, or leave it on as I did and scrape off later.
Lay pumpkin out on cookie sheets or roasting pan, flesh side up. Drizzle with oil and pour the sugar evenly over the pumpkin pieces. It seems like (and is) a lot of sugar – I used just a half cup at first, thinking “how could it need all that sugar,” but after baking for 2 hours, I took a taste, and it just wasn’t right, so I added the remaining sugar. Many recipes called for even more sugar than this, but I can say that 2 cups was plenty in my opinion. Most recipes did not call for salt on the pumpkin either, but I thought the flavor was “flat” without it, so sprinkle a little to your taste.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, then baste the pieces with the pan juices, cover again, and bake for another 45 minutes. The sugar will soak into the flesh and turn the pumpkin a deep, translucent orange color with a very soft texture. So delish!
For the yogurt sauce – mix all the ingredients together.
Here are the directions for the meat sauce that I didn’t make: brown the onions in the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the meat and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until it is broken up into small pieces and the pinkness is almost entirely gone. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.
For “my version” – take 3 chicken chorizo (or regular) sausages out of their casings and brown in a skillet over high heat for 7 minutes. Add 3 cloves minced garlic, a pinch of smoked hot paprika and salt. When the sausage is crispy, add a large can of crushed tomatoes and let simmer for 20 minutes. Adjust seasonings and set aside.
The traditional way to serve is hot pumpkin topped with cold yogurt topped with hot meat sauce. We also had some flat bread on the side and spread this combo onto the bread. It was really out of this world – definitely in the ranks of “best things ever.” I want to try a version using tvp or some vegetarian sub so that my vegetarian friends can enjoy. I think I might add minced mushrooms to the “meat” sauce to bump up the flavor when making a veggie version, probably more smoked paprika as well. I hope we get more pumpkins in our next farm share!