I crave this Afghan pumpkin dish when it’s cold out, and will sometimes make it with a butternut or other orange-fleshed winter squash, if pumpkins aren’t around. I originally got it from my dad, who cut this recipe out of the Boston Globe years ago when I belonged to a winter CSA whose pumpkin crop just would not quit. This definitely came to the rescue. The Globe article was a recreation of the kaddo served at Helmand, a well-known Afghan restaurant in Boston. My version comes from my memory of the original (which I have since lost and can no longer find online), as well as tips from random other kaddo recipes I’ve incorporated over the years. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can cook the pumpkin in a skillet, and then transfer to a baking or roasting pan, covered with aluminum foil, to bake.

Aside from dealing with the pumpkin, this comes together easily. The time it takes to bake the pumpkin is exactly how much time you need to prepare the two sauces.

The pumpkin

  • One 2 to 2.5 pound sugar pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower (or other vegetable) oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

The garlicky yogurt sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

The tomato meat sauce (or tomato lentil sauce–see * below for a vegetarian adjustment)

  • 2 tablespoons sunflower (or other vegetable) oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground meat–lamb is amazing in this, but beef is traditional and works great, too (or about 2 cups cooked lentils, see * below)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the pumpkin:
The goal is to remove the skin and seeds and to get it into 1-2 inch chunks. My strategy is to cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Then, cut 1-to-2 inch wide slices (as if you were slicing some type of melon to serve) and use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin off the slices. If you’d like, you can do this part a day or two before, to save a little time on the day you are planning on eating this.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven (with an oven-proof lid). Cook the pumpkin pieces, turning frequently, until golden brown. For maximum flavor, make sure they are well-browned before moving on. Spread out the browned pumpkins chunks into an even layer.

Mix the cinnamon and sugar, and sprinkle it over the pumpkin. Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until tender.

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

Mix up the garlicky yogurt sauce:
Mix together yogurt with one clove minced garlic in a bowl; season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Make the tomato meat sauce:
In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and cook the onions until lightly browned. Add ground meat, a clove of minced garlic, and salt and black pepper. Mix well and cook until beef is cooked through. Add tomato sauce and water. Bring mixture to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook about 20 minutes, or until it has thickened.

To serve: divide the cooked pumpkin among four bowls, add the tomato meat sauce, and top with the garlicky yogurt.

*For a vegetarian version, substitute cooked French green or black beluga lentils when prompted to add the ground meat. I recommend these specific lentil varieties, as they hold their shape better when cooking, which I think works better in this dish.

To prepare the lentils:

  • Add 1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed, and 2 cups water to a pan.
  • Bring to a gentile boil.
  • Reduce to a simmer, and cook uncovered for about 25 minutes or until softened. If they start to dry out before they are done, stir in a little water and continue cooking. They should be tender but still hold their shape when done.
  • Make these first (before cooking the pumpkin), and set aside until needed.