Afghan Pumpkin Kaddo

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Back when we lived in Cambridge, MA, my wife and I spent a fair amount of time in an Afghan restaurant called Helmand. Owned by the Karzai family (yes, those Karzais), Helmand served skillfully made traditional Afghan dishes in a welcoming environment, the dining room dominated by a gorgeous roaring brick bread oven that produced piece after piece of fresh hot flatbread. One of Helmand’s specialties was an appetizer called kaddo — pieces of baked sweetened pumpkin topped with a lightly garlic-flavored yogurt sauce. The refreshing pungent tang of the yogurt perfectly set off the warm, sweet taste of the pumpkin, making a dish that was a real stimulator of the appetite, but would have also made for a fine, sophisticated dessert. (The restaurant also offered a variant with a meat sauce, but we preferred the simpler vegetarian variety.)

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Lacking a local source for the stuff, Becca reverse engineered the recipe which appears below. It’s one part harvest comfort and one part exotic flair, and an inspired way to take advantage of one of the season’s most distinctive vegetables.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Afghan Kaddo

For Simple Syrup:
Mix together 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar into pan on medium heat. Stir until sugar is totally disolved, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For Yogurt Sauce:
In small bowl, mix together:
1 c plain yogurt (Greek yogurt works well)
1 tsp chopped garlic
½ tsp chopped ginger
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° F.

For Pumpkin:
1 small sugar pumpkin, seeds removed (like you would with a Jack o’ Lantern) then cut into 4 pieces. Each quarter should be cut into 8 pieces (for about 32 total) and peeled
2 tbsp vegetable oil

  1. Put vegetable oil into a hot pan over medium high heat. Cast iron works best.
  2. Place a single layer of pumpkin into pan, and allow to brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip pumpkin pieces over and cook another 5 minutes, until corners are lightly browned.
  3. Take out pumpkin and repeat until all pieces have been browned.
  4. Place all pumpkin pieces into pan and add 2 cups simple syrup, then stir to coat. Put lid on pan, and place into pre-heated 350° F oven for 35 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft.
  5. Remove from oven and serve with yogurt sauce.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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7 Comments

  1. Nums. So simple, but something to try this week.

  2. I lived in Somerville for 5 years and now am in Minneapolis. Helmand was one of my favorite places, especially when I wanted to go out to dinner with out of town guests. I’ve been craving their kaddo, so I am so happy to have discovered this recipe. I will definitely be giving it a try. Thanks!

  3. Man, I miss Helmand. One of my go to places when living in Somerville and a place we head to when I return to Boston to visit family.

    I believe Kyber Pass does some squash dumplings. Someone should ask if this is a recipe he’d ever consider.

  4. Author

    That is a fabulous idea. I like Khyber Pass, but my attendance would skyrocket if they were banging out a credible kaddo. And by “credible,” I mean, “tastes like Helmand’s version.”

  5. Author

    Oh, and Trinity, let us know how this works for you — we thought we got pretty close, but I’d be curious to hear whether you’d adjust it.

  6. Spoke with the owner of Khyber Pass. If you go on the weekends he does in fact offer a version of this dish. He uses fresh butternut squash.

  7. Author

    Oh, fantastic — off to Khyber Pass this weekend! Thanks for the update.

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