Friday, September 30, 2011

Spicy Afghan Pumpkin--First in the Season

My Afghan friend brought me this dish a couple of years ago, when our kids were still riding horses together. She often spoiled me with her national dishes bringing me on Friday afternoons some samples of what she was preparing for dinner. It happened to be during the Ramadan and this one was of the many dishes she prepared for the evening meal that day.

Until I met her, kebabs was all I knew from the Afghan cuisine. When I started to meet her regularly, I tried a new Afghan dish almost every Friday. These were often simple, vegetable dishes but I was always surprised how good they were. They were less spicy than Indian dishes but they always had a very strong aroma, which made me feel hungry long before dinner time. From those times I added many Afghan dishes to my diet. And even my fastidious younger son likes some of them, particularly if they are accompanied by a big amount of yogurt sauce and a fresh flat bread.

Yesterday I got my first pumpkin this season. Not too big and not for decoration only. First of all of course I took many pictures of it. Later on I used a half of it to make my family's favorite pumpkin risotto. And I used the other half to try this Afghan pumpkin recipe. I made a whole large dish and it was more than enough for a dinner. It was spicy but not hot. It also had a sweet and sour taste underneath, as it is served with the yogurt sauce, whose sourness compliments the sweetness of the pumpkin.

Spicy Afghan Pumpkin

About 4 lb (2 kilograms) of pumpkin,
1 large onion, finely chopped,
4-6 garlic cloves,
about an inch (two and half centimeters) of fresh ginger, peeled off and grated,
1 tsp turmeric,
1 tbsp ground coriander,
2 tbsp sugar,
olive oil for frying,
salt, pepper,
a pinch of chili pepper,
1 cup of European or Greek Yogurt,
1 garlic.

1. Cut the pumpkin into thick slices, peel it off, and remove seeds. Cut pumpkin into smaller squares.

2. In a large frying pan heat 2 tbsp of oil. Add about a half of pumpkin pieces and fry on both sides until they turn brown. Transfer to an oven proof dish. Follow with the other half, adding more oil.

3 Preheat oven to 400F.
4. On the same frying pan that you used to fry the pumpkin, heat extra 2-3 tbsp of oil. Add chopped onion, ginger, and garlic, and fry until onion becomes transparent. Then add turmeric, coriander, salt, and pepper, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. When spices are cooked, add about a cup of water to make the sauce.
5. Sprinkle the top of the pumpkin with sugar and chili and pour the sauce over. Cover and bake the pumpkin for about 30-40 minutes, until it becomes soft (check it with a fork). At that point, remove the cover and let water evaporate to make the sauce thicker.

Serve warm with the yogurt sauce on top and Middle Eastern breads.

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