Afghan sweet poached pumpkin & simple pilaf

good food pumpkin illustration

Barbara Henderson’s wonderful cucurbits illustration from Good Food, p. 66.

After the recent floods in Dunedin, my mum was helping her friend to clear up the ground floor of his water-damaged house and came across a stack of old Cuisine magazines. Sitting on top of a soggy pile of back issues was a completely dry magazine from 2009 with ‘Lois Daish does dinner’ emblazoned across the front cover. Mum excitedly told me about it and posted it up to me; we both know the value of a undiscovered Lois recipe.

In that flood-spared magazine Lois gives recipes for a simple and delicious dinner at home; a snapshot of what she was cooking and eating at that time. Among these recipes was one for Afghan sweet poached pumpkin which Lois recommends serving alongside simple pilaf.

A small list of inexpensive ingredients and simple cooking methods creates two unexpectedly delicious dishes; the flavour of the pumpkin really shines and is lifted by the dollop of garlic-spiked yoghurt on top. The pilaf has a lovely toasted flavour which comes from the frying of the rice before it is cooked in liquid. Served with some wilted spinach, Afghan sweet poached pumpkin and simple pilaf make for a really lovely and comforting dinner.

Afghan sweet poached pumpkin (Lois Daish, ‘Lois Daish does dinner’, Cuisine 134, May 2009, p. 92).

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup water

500g crown pumpkin (grey-skinned) or buttercup, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-3cm chunks

1/2 cup thick plain unsweetened yoghurt (I use The Collective brand)

1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste with salt

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Place the butter in a wide saucepan or deep frying pan over a medium heat until melted and then add the onion and fry until just starting to colour. Season with salt and pepper and add the sugar and water. Bring to the boil and add the pumpkin, preferably in a single layer. Cover with a lid and simmer gently until the the pumpkin is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. This process will take quite a while, but you can get on with preparing the rice pilaf and green vegetables in the meantime. Combine the yoghurt and garlic. Serve the pumpkin and its sauce in a warmed serving bowl and spoon the yoghurt over the top. Serve the lemon wedges in a small bowl on the side and squeeze over the top of the pumpkin and rice as you eat.

Simple pilaf (Lois Daish, ‘Lois Dais does dinner’, Cuisine 134, May 2009, p.92).

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, finely diced

1 1/2 cups jasmine or basmati rice (I used brown basmati)

3 cups water or chicken stock

1 bay leaf

a few thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt (unless the stock you are using is salty)

Put the oil and butter in a medium-sized heavy saucepan over a gentle heat and add the onion. Fry until the onion is translucent and then add the rice (no need to wash it first). Continue to gently fry for a couple of minutes, stirring it often. Add the water, stock, bay leaf and thyme. Taste the cooking liquid and add some salt if needed.

Simmer uncovered until the liquid is almost absorbed and then cover the pan, lower the heat and cook for a further 10 minutes until the rice is almost tender. Turn the heat off and leave the rice in the covered saucepan for another 15 minutes until it is tender and fluffy.

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