Monday, October 09, 2006

Autumn associations or a feast for the senses. Please let's make Kaddo Bourani!

There’s no other season that affects me so profoundly.

Maybe it’s because, since moving to the Bay Area, I long for fall. At the first hint of summer’s waning, I find myself consciously stretching my senses to pick up the scent of a wood fire or identify that specific dry crispness in the air. This time of year, I’m obsessed with experiencing the season in any way that heightens my senses. I want to build fires, not only for heat, but for the crackling snap of twigs and the smoky smell that fills the house. I want to cook roast dinners using lots of squash, pumpkins, parsnips and beets. I want to taste the deep, dark flavors of the season like maple and molasses. I want to make gingerbread cake and sticky toffee pudding. I want to bake apples stuffed with rosemary and brown sugar. I want to drink Beaujolais and drive through wine country and see the autumn colors. And I want to do it all day, every day, until Christmastime.

With all this in mind, I was thinking the other night about making something to eat that would, in one dish, marry all the flavors and smells and textures of autumn. I knew it would require acorn squash or pumpkin and I wanted layers of deep complex flavors, as well.

It had to be kaddo bourani.

A popular Afghan dish, kaddo bourani features roasted sweet pumpkin in yogurt sauce, often topped with lamb or beef. It’s a genius blend of sweet and savory that absolutely satisfies my craving for all things edibly autumnal. If you want to make it the traditional way, there are tons of recipes online. Or if you want to experience it in authenticity, check out The Helmand in North Beach–the only Afghan restaurant in the city, as far as I know. I’ve not eaten there, but I’m told this dish is a house specialty and I’ve no doubt they do it right.

If you intend to make it yourself, you’ll notice that most recipes online ask for a few cups of sugar to sweeten the pumpkin flesh. I can’t bring myself to just pour refined white sugar over that beautiful pumpkin, so I use a bit of maple syrup instead. Sure, it’s just as sweet, but somehow it seems less of an offense.

The following is my version of Kaddo Bourani, which is by no means traditional, nor is it exacting, but as with Indian food, you can play around with measurements and the flavors mix and mingle beautifully whether you favor the curry, the raita or the chutneys.

Kaddo Bourani

2-4 sugar pie pumpkins
1 cup grade B maple syrup (available at health food stores)
1 pound ground beef or lamb
2 cups stewed tomatoes
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups plain yogurt (more if you like it tart, as I do)
a few leaves fresh mint, chopped, for topping
salt, pepper
allspice (optional)

So, to begin, cut the top off your pumpkin as you would a jack o’ lantern. Then cut down the side, splitting it into 4 slices. Repeat on each pumpkin. Use a dull knife or serrated spoon to scrape the seeds and pulp from the core, leaving the flesh intact. Once you’ve removed all squishy, icky bits, arrange the pieces of pumpkin, flesh side up, on a baking sheet that’s been greased or sprayed with cooking oil. Then pour a little maple syrup into the “cradle” of each pumpkin piece. Maybe drizzle it across, or brush each piece so all of the flesh has a little sweet coating. Pop the pan in a 450 oven and let roast for around an hour. This can take up to 2 hours, but the pumpkins are small, so an hour should be sufficient. You’ll know they’re ready when the flesh is soft and brightly colored and a fork easily pulls it from the rind.

While your pumpkins are roasting, sauté your garlic and onions, being careful not to burn either, but stirring them until translucent and golden. Remove and set aside. Now brown your beef or lamb, being sure to season with plenty of salt and, if you’re adventurous, a touch of allspice. Once the meat is browned, strain it to drain it of excess fat. You don’t want that nasty layer of lard coating your leftovers tomorrow morning, do you? Good. Then return the meat to the pan, adding the onions, garlic and stewed tomatoes. Turn it up to low-medium heat, add the yogurt, and stir until the sauce is all mixed and warmed through.

When the pumpkins are cooked, remove them from the oven and scrape the flesh from the rinds. If possible, do so to form little cubes, but it’s fine if it comes off in a mushy form. It will still taste divine. By now, the syrup should have soaked in, imparting a deep, sweet flavor. Top the pumpkin with the meat and yogurt sauce and sprinkle a few strips of fresh mint on top. I like to serve this with peas tossed with sherry vinegar and fresh mint or spinach sautéed with garlic, olive oil and sea salt.


Blogger lifeflowson said...

I love your writing Jamie, you paint an amazing picture! I'm excited to try your recipes, they all sound so incredible!

By the way this is Mary in Sacramento, Michael gave me the link to your blog, since I'm such a foodie!

10:40 PM  
Blogger Miss Stitch said...

I made this last night and it came out delish! I used lamb, and added the all spice, which tasted great. I also used a pumpkin and butternut squash that I had already, and canned whole fire roasted tomatoes.

I'm eating the leftovers now.... thanks for sharing Jamie!

12:48 PM  

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