Kaddo Bourani (Pumpkin with Yogurt and Meat Sauces)
Perhaps the best Afghani restaurant I have ever been to is Helmand in Cambridge, MA. Bamiyan in NYC has a special place in my heart, because we discovered it when Dave was trying to keep me fed while I was taking the bar exam, but Helmand won me over with their Kaddo Bourani.
The way Bamiyan makes their Bouranee Kadu, it is sauteed butternut squash with this perfect mint garlic yogurt sauce. I love it, and order it every time I go there. But when I went to Helmand, I found that they called their version Kaddo Bourani, and it was translucent caramelized sugar pumpkin with both that perfect yogurt sauce and a meat sauce on top of that.
Bamiyan’s version is incredibly good; Helmand’s version is a transcendent experience.
I found Helmand’s recipe in the SF Gate archives, and to be honest, I followed it exactly. I couldn’t bring myself to risk disappointment by experimenting too much the first time around.
It worked out perfectly. This is a dish so good it made me shift my Afghani restaurant allegiances. So good that I will probably serve it at my next serious formal dinner. So good that we may have to get a second freezer just so that we can make this dish after pumpkins go out of season. This goes on my shortlist of favorite recipes of all time.
For the pumpkin
2 Sugar Pie pumpkins, each about 3 pounds
6 tbsp corn oil
3 C sugar
For the yogurt sauce
2 C plain yogurt (we used lowfat, which was fine)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp salt
For the meat sauce
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
Make the pumpkin:
It helps to have a serious vegetable cleaver for this bit.
Preheat your oven to 300º.
Wash off the outside of the pumpkins. Cut them in half. Scrape out the stringy stuff on the inside. Cut the halves into 3″-4″ pieces or so. Peel them – you can actually use a regular peeler for this, though it helps to have a sharp paring knife to get the stem and hard-to-reach rind bits off. Peel it deeply enough that you get rid of all the green and rind.
Find a baking pan large enough to hold all the pumpkin pieces in a single layer. Use multiple pans, if need be. Cover the pumpkin pieces in the oil (yes, really, use all of it), and place them hollow side up in the pan(s). Pour the sugar evenly over the pumpkin pieces (yes, really, just grit your teeth and use all of it; if you have a small child, you may find it easier to have them do this part for you, and you can look away until they’re done).
Cover the pan(s) with aluminum foil. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, then baste the pieces with the pan juices, cover them up again, and bake for another 45 minutes.
The sugar will all melt away and end up partially absorbed. The pumpkin pieces will turn dark orange and translucent. They will have a stunningly novel texture. It is a beautiful thing.
Make the yogurt sauce:
Mix all the ingredients together. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.
Make the meat sauce:
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 (except for the tomato paste and water) and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes or so. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the water and bring to a boil. (Really, it will probably boil as soon as it touches the pan.) Lower the heat and let simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.
Hot pumpkin, topped with cold yogurt sauce, topped with hot meat sauce.