Flavorful Afghan-Style Pumpkin Stew with Garlicky Yogurt

Everybody loves a one-bowl dinner. Spice up your pumpkin with ginger, garlic, chilis and turmeric for a supremely flavorful vegetarian stew, served atop a steaming bowl of rice.

Last fall, my cookbook club cooked from an amazing new book of Eastern Mediterranean dishes. The table was filled with platefuls of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta, figs, and other beautiful regional flavors.

Roasted pumpkin on baking sheet with white dish towel in background

Afghan-Style Pumpkin Stew in bowl with spoon and Garlicky Yogurt sauce and a stack of pita bread in background

Of all the delicious dishes, the Afghan pumpkin stew was a standout. Why was a stew from South Asia even in a Greek, Turkish and Cypriot cookbook? The author explains that she experienced this dish while on the island of Lesbos, where a large Afghan refugee population resides. I was glad it made it into the book, and made a mental note to revisit the dish in the new year. After the holiday season we are all looking for healthier meals, though of course ones with full flavor.

Afghan-Style Pumpkin Stew in bowl with spoon and Garlicky Yogurt sauce and a stack of pita bread in background

And this dish is it. A perfectly cozy, intensely flavored stew for chilly evenings. With ingredients like garlic, ginger, turmeric, pepper, cumin and coriander, you are not only getting a healthy dose of good-for-you foods, but an amazingly spiced vegetarian dish that you’ll keep coming back to.

Afghan-Style Pumpkin Stew in bowl with spoon and Garlicky Yogurt sauce and a stack of pita bread in background

I’ve made some minor adjustments, preferring to use fresh turmeric, more garlic, and canned tomatoes (this time of year canned tomatoes are a better option than fresh). I’ve also added chickpeas to the mix, which adds a distinct heartiness. Spooned into a big bowl with steamed basmati rice, this is an all-in-one dinner for lovers of flavor.

Afghan-Style Pumpkin Stew in bowl with spoon and Garlicky Yogurt sauce and a stack of pita bread in background

Are there any substitutions?

    1. As noted in the ingredients, either a sugar pumpkin or butternut squash will work. On occasion, when using pumpkin, I’ve split it open, seeded it, and roasted it cut side down instead of cubing it (as peeling a pumpkin can be a pain depending on the depth of the grooves). If you decide to roast in halves, after roasting, scoop it into the pot with the tomatoes, which will yield a thicker pumpkin stew.
    2. I urge you to seek out dried mint as it adds a lovely flavor, however if you don’t have dried mint, you can substitute dried oregano.
    3. For a vegan meal, leave off the yogurt topping.

Afghan-Style Pumpkin Stew in bowl with spoon and Garlicky Yogurt sauce and a stack of pita bread in background

Make AheadHealthyMid-Week

Flavorful Afghan-Style Pumpkin Stew with Garlicky Yogurt

Adapted from Ripe Figs
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Servings: 3

Ingredients

For the squash:

  • 3 pounds winter squash* such as pumpkin or butternut
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the stew base:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped or grated finely
  • 1- inch piece ginger peeled and grated finely
  • 1- inch piece fresh turmeric peeled and grated finely, or use 1 teaspoon ground
  • 1 small jalapeño seeded and chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds or 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds or 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15- ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint

For serving:

  • ¾ cup yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove finely grated
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • Cooked basmati or jasmine rice or flatbread, optional

Instructions

  • If using the whole spices, place the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet and toast for 1-2 minutes over low heat, making sure that they don’t burn. Turn them out onto a cutting board and crush with the flat side of a large chef’s knife, or use a mortar and pestle to crush them. Set aside. If using pre-ground spices, skip this step.
  • Preheat your oven to 375. Toss the cubed squash with the olive oil and salt on a large baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until softened.
  • While the squash roasts, prepare the stew base. Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and a half teaspoon salt 8-10 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, jalapeño, cumin, and coriander (I like to put all the spices together in a pinch bowl so I can dump them in all at once). Cook for another minute, then add the tomatoes, chickpeas, sugar, water and dried mint. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, while the squash roasts.
  • Add the roasted squash to the pot, stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if needed, a little more water if it seems too thick, then cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
  • Just before serving, stir the yogurt, garlic and salt together. Spoon stew into bowls, with cooked rice or flatbread if desired, and dollop a spoonful of yogurt on top.

Tips & Tricks

For a different method using a sugar pumpkin, split it in half, remove the seeds and roast it cut side down on an oiled sheet. Then, once cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh in large chunks into the stew. It melts into the other ingredients, making it more homogeneous than if you use cubed squash. A different, yet equally delicious version.

 

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