Armenian Stuffed Pumpkin (Ghapamah)

It's officially Fall and pumpkin season. I see pumpkins everywhere, the farmers market, the grocery stores, even in the little Persian market nearby.  I love carving them and baking with them, but I have never cooked a pumpkin and made a dish out of it. Well...let's face it, I'm a lousy cook and for matters like this, I have to turn to experts, and who better than my dear friend  Coco@cocointhekitchen. I first met Coco on Instagram, from a "Like" here and a "comment" there, we became friends. We share the same passion for baking, reading culinary books, spending time with family and of course our birth country Iran. Coco is funny, artistic, creative, not to mention a great mom & a cook. She is a joy to be with. Today, Coco is sharing her story of purchasing a pumpkin & making an Armenian dish stuffed pumpkin with my favorite pomegranate molasses. Enjoy her story:

 

                     Stuffed Pumpkin (Armenian Ghapamah)

By: CoCo In The Kitchen 

It was just another ordinary trip to the market, Daisy in the shopping cart reaching to snatch stuff from the shelves, as usual. We needed some basics, onions, potatoes, peaches when my eyes fell on a pile of beautiful blushing fairy pumpkins. It was mid-summer. What were these pretty li'l things doing here? Before I knew it, I had one cradled under my arm like a baby, rushing to the cash register. Never mind that I had no idea what I was going to do with it and forgot the onions. That was not the point. The pumpkin had to go home with us. Well, that pumpkin sat on the counter of my baking station in the kitchen for days, weeks. Shawn passed by, looked at the pumpkin, cast a sly smile my way, then finally asked "Are you going to do anything with this pumpkin or let it rot so you can just throw it away?" to which I replied, "I'm waiting for you to leave town so I can do something with it." Neither he nor my dad are not particularly fond of pumpkins - not sure why. I love them. This one had such a beautiful figure, it would be lovely on the dinner table. 

My first thought was sweet. How could I stuff a cake into that pumpkin? Or, maybe creme caramel? Now, that was an idea! But, the pumpkin was huge and there probably would not be a lot of takers. Maybe I could make Bobotie for the stuffing. A fragrant ground meat dish from South Africa, Bobotie is flavoured with cinnamon, coriander, curry, ginger topped with an egg custard. I still was not convinced. 

Just then, my next-door friend Silva stopped by for a visit. I told her the fate of this pretty pumpkin was unclear. She suggested Armenian Ghapamah, as in the old of the same name. Sure, I remembered it from when I was a kid, but had no idea the song was about food. 

The song is very cheery. It goes something like this:

We brought a pumpkin home, filled it with sugar and put it into the tonir.*

Then came dad and his sister,

Came mother and her sister,

Uncle and aunt,

Godmother, godfather, children,

Mom-in-law, pop-in-law,

Best man, his Mrs,

Then came close and distant relatives.

Soon there were 100 hungry guests and just one pumpkin!

Unfortunately, there are not many authentic Armenian cookbooks out there. As a result of our living in a diaspora, there are also not many exclusively Armenian dishes as we borrow a lot from the cuisines of the countries where we settle. This stuffed pumpkin and nazook may very well be the only ones. So after some digging, I found the stuffing is basically rice and ground beef with various spices, dried fruits and nuts, but there was no decisively authentic recipe. So, I did my own interpretation and brought two nations closer.

 

Armenian Stuffed Pumpkin (Ghapamah)

 

September 28th, 2014

Yield: Serves only 8 hungry relatives

 

Serves well as a side dish, but also makes a delicious meatless main.

 

Ingredients:

Base:

  • 1 large French cheese (Cuban, Fairy) pumpkin
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tart apple (like Granny Smith)
  • 2 Tb dried tart cherries

Spice Mixture:

  • 4 Tb Madras curry powder
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 pinches ground ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tb turmeric
  • 2 Tb cinnamon
  • 2 Tb brown sugar
  • pinch red chili (optional)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 Tb salt
  • 2 Tb pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil1/2 cup pomegranate molasses

 

Directions:

  1. Measure about a cup of quinoa into a small pot, cover with water, set on medium-high heat until cooked – the little germ thread will show
  2. when the quinoa is ready.
  3. Give the pumpkin a good wash.Carefully slice about 2 inches around the stem of the pumpkin, remove top and set aside.Remove the seeds and stringy pulp.
  4. Remove quinoa from the stove and transfer a big bowl.
  5. Rinse about a cup of rice until the water is no longer cloudy. Add to the bowl and mix gently with the quinoa.
  6. Peel and chop the apple into small cubes and add to the bowl. Add cherries to the mix.
  7. Mince garlic and add to the bowl.
  8. Preheat oven to 375F.
  9. Make the sauce by combining the spices, sugar, olive oil and pomegranate molasses.
  10. Pour over ingredients in the bowl and mix gently to coat well.
  11. Transfer stuffing into pumpkin shell, top with bay leaves.
  12. Place cap back onto pumpkin and wrap it snug with several layers of foil.
  13. Place onto a baking sheet and transfer to the hot oven.
  14. Bake 2 hours, until pumpkin is fork-tender.
  15. Remove from oven and peel foil off.
  16. Set onto a pretty platter and slice to serve.

To get more delicious recipes from Coco please visit her website. You can also find Coco on Instagram and Twitter.