Imagine soft succulent morsels of butternut squash braised in the warming spices of ginger, turmeric, chili & cumin and tucked into a bed of tzatziki-style sauce and you will have an inkling of the culinary pleasure that is Kadoo Boranee.
This Afghan style braised butternut squash is quite simply the most memorable dish I’ve eaten in the past couple of years and my new favorite way to enjoy seasonal squash.
My husband and I discovered it at this restaurant when we were celebrating our 19th year wedding anniversary this past summer. If you’re ever visiting the beautiful Santa Cruz area, I highly recommend it for its outstanding food, friendly and attentive service, intimate courtyard and proximate views.
Whenever I visit a new eatery I like to chat up the staff and patrons (or anyone else who is willing to talk to me) about their favorite dishes — gathering up as much information as possible before ordering. I may have an idea or leaning based on the description in the menu but those who are closest generally know best. And in this case, our gracious waiter did not hesitate a moment to encourage us to order the Kadoo Boranee as a starter ~ a generous portion served with a basket of warm naan which we shared.
As it turns out, my husband had one of those nasty (and rather untimely) summer colds and was unable to properly taste his food that night. I was sure to give him a full breakdown of what he missed that evening (wink) but also made a quiet promise to myself to recreate this dish for him later in the fall.
Kadoo actually means pumpkin in Dari but I’m told that butternut squash is often preferred in this dish for its taste, texture and longer seasonal availability. You may also come across alternate spellings of this recipe – Kadu, Bouranee, Borani – are some of the most common derivations I’ve encountered.
I had a lot of fun recreating this dish in my kitchen and putting my own twist on it. It brought back some wonderful memories of our visit to Santa Cruz and for what it’s worth, my husband said that it was one of the best dishes I’ve ever made.
If you enjoy the warmth and flavors of a delicious, aromatic curry and can imagine them juxtaposed against the coolness of a yogurt-mint base, you might just fall in love with it too. Kadoo Boranee is reputed to be America’s favorite Afghan dish and I think I know why.
- For the Butternut Squash:
- 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 3½ Tbsp olive oil
- 1 pound butternut squash, cubed (I purchased preservative free pre-cut squash)
- 3-5 cloves of garlic smashed, salted & finely sliced
- ½ Tbsp fresh ginger, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp coconut sugar
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 cup liquid: ½ cup vegetable (or chicken) broth + ½ cup water
- For the Yogurt Sauce:
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup sour cream
- good pinch of salt
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- For topping: pinch of dry mint
- Prepare the Yogurt Sauce by whisking together: yogurt, sour cream, salt and garlic in a bowl - cover and place in fridge while prepping the remaining ingredients.
- Purée onion in a small blender/food processor.
- In a separate small dish, combine the dry spices: turmeric, cumin, chili, coriander & ginger.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet/wok over low-medium heat and sautée onion until golden, about 10 minutes. Add fresh ginger, garlic and the ground dry spices: turmeric, cumin, chili, coriander and ground ginger, stirring until the seasonings are well combined and fragrant (a minute or two).
- Add tomato paste, broth, water, sugar and salt, mixing well to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the cubed butternut squash.
- Reduce heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes (lifting the lid to stir the squash once or twice during this time). Remove the lid for the remaining cooking time until the squash is tender but still holding its shape (about 10 more minutes). Continue to stir the squash on occasion and use more water or stock while cooking, if needed. The goal is to have about 80% of the seasoned liquid absorbed into the squash while retaining the remaining liquid as a golden sauce with visible bits of seasoning (garlic/ginger/onion).
- Remove Yogurt Sauce from the fridge and distribute 90% of it among 4 bowls or plates spreading it out to create a base for the squash - (retain about 2 Tbsp of sauce for topping). Sprinkle the yogurt base with dry mint, and a dash of cumin/chili.
- Top each yogurt base with some of the warm butternut squash - stacking it if you like - and making sure to scoop up some of the delicious sauce and bits of seasoning as you go along.
- Finally, top each of the butternut squash bundles with a final dollop of Yogurt Sauce and sprinkle again with dry mint and a final dash of cumin/turmeric/chili/ginger as desired.
- Enjoy right away for best results.
The Yogurt Sauce Ingredients: if you wish you can use 1 cup of yogurt and skip the sour cream all together. I happen to love the cream inclusion in this recipe.
Pre-cut Butternut Squash: I used a preservative free pre-cut butternut squash in this recipe. Pre-cut will cost you a little bit more but in my view, it is enormously convenient and well worth the time saving.
The Heat Factor: this dish is highly aromatic but not spicy. The subtle heat allows you to enjoy the full range of flavor but if you want to experiment with ranching up the heat on your next go through, you could opt for a warmer chile (as opposed to the generic/milder "chile powder" found in the grocery store) such as ancho, chipotle or cayenne.
A little flashback to our engagement night some twenty-two years ago…