Just like its namesake holiday, a Halloween Stew is childlike and all grown-up at the same time: there is the sweet-as-candy butternut squash taste but then there are prunes involved! The flavoring of this stew is something lush: as is the wont of Persian cuisine, there are many contrasting notes of texture (soft and chewy and mushy) and flavor (earthy, sweet, mildly tart) whirling and combining to form a frighteningly pleasurable dining experience.
I’ll keep it short and sweet this time and skip (just after this one pic) right along to our haunting Halloween Stew recipe.This is no trick. Just a treat.
- 1 butternut squash (at least 2 lbs)
- 1 cup (or more, up to you) pitted prunes
- 1/2 lb stew meat
- 1 medium onion (chopped or sliced)
- 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 big lemon (freshly juiced)
- 1 tablespoon turmeric (1/2 for sauteing squash, 1/2 for sauteing onions)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger (signature touch of Maman but optional
- salt & pepper to taste
- Peel the butternut squash. Cut 1″ thick slices. Discard seeds. Then cut each slice into 3 or more smaller chunks.
- Heat 1 tablespoon (or more) of olive oil and saute the butternut squash pieces for 10-15 minutes until they are nearly cooked. Then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and stir to mix. Leave aside for now.
- Saute prunes in 1 tablespoon of olive oil – very briefly, just give them a whirl or two. Leave aside for now.
- In a big pot, heat oil till it sizzles. Add onions, sprinkle with salt (prevents onion from emitting liquid and getting soggy) and saute (avoid over-stirring) over medium heat – for 5-6 minutes – until nicely golden and translucent. Then add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and pepper. Stir to mix.
- Add meat to the onion and saute over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, searing the meat on each side. (Tip: if necessary, add more oil or 1-2 tablespoons of hot water to avoid burning the meat while searing.) If you are using the grated ginger (optional but nice) add it half-way through this step of searing the meat.
- Once you’ve seared the meat, Add 3 cups of water to it, also add salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Cover pot with lid, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 1/2 hour (or longer if necessary) until the meat is tenderly cooked. Halfway through cooking the meat, add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric. In the final stage of cooking the meat (the last quarter of hour before you expect the meat to be th0roughly cooked), add the tomato paste and lemon juice. At this time also add in the butternut squash (taking care not to break/smoosh the pieces) and the sauteed prunes as well. Stir gently. Cover and continue to cook on low heat for another 15 minutes.
- Adjust salt and lemon juice to taste. Serve!
Serve hot – poured into a deep serving bowl. When transferring stew to the serving bowl, use a delicate touch with the butternut squash pieces to avoid crumbling. As an optional nice touch, sprinkle a thin dusting of cinnamon on top of the serving bowl if you so please.
Serve with fluffy rice!
Make it, and enjoy it, and noosheh jaan!