Hands down the best Afghan restaurant in Baltimore is The Helmand. Dining there is equivalent to dining at a good friend’s home, intimate and warm, inviting and familiar. You grow to know the faces of the staff over the years, and grow to love the hearty and filling dishes you can always count on.
The first time I tasted kaddo borawni, I almost fell off my chair it was so good. Pieces of pumpkin are roasted with sugar until they are soft and dripping with sweetness, and served with a garlic-infused yogurt sauce. I have to stop here for a moment, as I wipe the drool off my face.
There are other versions to this dish that in addition to the yogurt, a meat sauce is also served with the pumpkin. I thought, what an interesting combination. I just had to try this out at home. Each component was incredibly simple to make, except for the pumpkin prep: cutting it into pieces and peeling each one with a knife, since the skin was too thick for a vegetable peeler. Here’s a quick tip: to open up a pumpkin, just drop it on your kitchen floor a couple of times. The impact will split it open for you.
The resulting dish is so delicious you’ll really want to stock up on pumpkins this fall. The flavor combinations are all so unique, and it works! Of course, you can make this dish vegetarian by omitting the meat sauce, just like the way the Helmand serves it up.
1 sugar pumpkin (about 3 lbs)
4 Tbsp vegetable or corn oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 8-oz. containers yogurt
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1. For the pumpkin: Split open your pumpkin, clean out the seeds and fibers from the core, and cut into small pieces, about 2-3 inches on each side. Carefully peel with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler.
2. Heat the oil in a large stockpot on high heat. Add the pumpkin, stir to coat with oil, cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Transfer the pumpkin into a dutch oven or a large cast iron pot, sprinkle evenly with the sugar, cover, and bake for about 30 minutes in a 350F oven.
3. Meanwhile, make the yogurt sauce. Stir yogurt, garlic, and salt together. Set aside to allow the flavors to intensify.
4. For the meat sauce: Cook the onion in a skillet over medium heat until transluscent. Stir in the beef and cook until lightly browned. Add the garlic, coriander, nutmeg, cumin, and ginger. Cook about 2 minutes to release all the flavors. Add the tomato sauce and paste. You may need to add 1/2 cup of water to thin down the sauce if it is too thick. You want a wetter sauce at this point, as you will need to let it reduce down. Cook for 5 minutes more.
5. To serve: Spoon the pumpkin onto a plate and drizzle with yogurt and meat sauces. Serve warm.