My thoroughly kitchen-experimental side has stirred and it pokes at me again and again, not fully understanding that I live my life during the week in hotels, sans cuisine (quelle horreur!). I spent two solid days dreaming of making a rich, aromatic chicken pho, and now suddenly, the urge to make an Afghan dish (bourani kadoo), comprised of roasted pumpkin, beef and a yogurt-mint sauce, has completely overtaken me. Why – who knows? I saw the word “Bagram” in connection with an air base in Afghanistan, which made me think about the Afghan restaurant I had passed by so many times in Vancouver, Canada (need I even say that Vancouver is one of the best cities in the entire world – hands down? Most definitely for food but also just because it is fabulous) but never went to.
And what do I know about Afghanistan or Afghan cuisine really? Absolument rien! For me it’s a strangely beautiful and mysterious place with an equally enigmatic history. Some part of me loves it and wishes I knew more. It is all obscured by warfare and the Taliban, but I don’t let those things blind me.
I love pumpkin, though, and I will look for any reason at all to use it somewhere, somehow in my baking and even in my cooking.
The trouble, apart from lacking the facilities to cook on weeknights, is that I don’t really prepare meals for myself and cannot imagine going to all this trouble just for me. House husband/housewife candidates, apply within. (I will probably make this or some semblance of it this weekend in any case.)
Two three-pound sugar pie pumpkins or the equivalent using butternut squash
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 to 3 cups sugar (less if you want a less sweet taste)
Preheat oven to 300ºF/150C. Cut pumpkins in half and scrape out the insides (seeds + stringy bits). Cut each half into 3-4 inch pieces. Remove the rind. Place the pumpkin slices hollow side up in a baking dish and cover with the oil. Pour the sugar on top. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 3 hours (until the pumpkin has caramelized into a deep, orange color).
Begin to prepare the yogurt and meat sauces while the pumpkin bakes.
2 cups plain yogurt
2 minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried mint
Salt to taste (1/4 to ½ teaspoon)
For the yogurt sauce, combine all the ingredients and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 kilogram ground beef
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/3 cup water
Sauté onions in oil over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet until golden brown (about 20 minutes). Add ground beef and break up the pieces until the meat is no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Add remaining ingredients (except tomato paste and water). Blend in tomato paste. Add water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce, and simmer for 15 minutes.
To serve, place the pumpkin on a serving dish or on the individual serving plate, on the bottom of the “pile” you’re building. Add yogurt sauce and then top with meat sauce.