Can you imagine a rich-tasting and pampering meal that is cooked with minimal effort and ingredients in one pot?
Lebanese Vegan Apricot Pilau or pulao is a rice dish very close to this image. Cooked with a generous dose of apricots, almonds and chickpeas, it has the potential to cheer one up from the boredom of tried and tested quotidian food effortlessly. Don't believe it? Then try out for yourself! Made in a single vessel in whole spices- flavoured ghee, with lightly sauteed onions, apricots, chickpeas and almonds cooked in water, the dish is scrumptious. Orange zest introduced in the middle of the cooking amps up the flavour in the most exciting manner.
All About Stuffed Pumpkin And Cooked Rice Fillings
Where does the tradition of stuffed pumpkin come from? Well, it's Armenian in origin, and the dish is called Ghapama meaning cooked in a covered pot. This amazing-looking rice-filled pumpkin is traditionally served between the New Year and Armenian Christmas which is celebrated on January 6th. Besides, it is ritually made to celebrate the Armenian New Year or Barkendan. Interestingly the Ghapamas convey an inspiring message for Armenians, where pumpkins are considered the empty bin in which last year’s harvest and the good deeds received by the particular Armenian family are concluded.
It's conventionally prepared by removing the fleshy insides of the pumpkin and cutting it from the top, where the hollowed pumpkin is stuffed with rice and assorted fillings. The pumpkin is baked until it becomes soft and served. At times, Ghapama is made with a winter squash such as a corn squash variety rather than pumpkin.
Cooking: 2 hours 32 minutes
• 2 medium onions (chopped)
• ½ tsp orange zest
• 15 threads of saffron
• Vegetable stock
• 2 cups of rice
• 120 gm canned chickpeas
• 100 gm dried apricots (diced)
• 100 gm blanched almonds
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 2 tsp salt
• 1 tsp ground cardamom
• ½ Tsp black pepper
1. Heat oil in a pot, add chopped onions and saute for 4-5 minutes until softened
2. Then add the diced apricots into the pot, followed by chickpeas and the zest of the orange
3. Add cardamom powder, black pepper powder and salt and mix everything.
4. Add the washed rice and mix well with all other ingredients.
5. Pour in the vegetable stock to just cover the rice.
6. Bring it to a boil on high heat, then allow the liquid to boil for 5 minutes while keeping it covered with the lid.
7. When the liquid level goes below the rice, turn the heat to low and allow it to be steam-cooked for 20 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, fry the almonds in ghee until golden brown and add these to the rice once the rice is cooked well.
9. To prepare the pumpkins, cut out a thin flat part from the top of the pumpkin about the size of a teacup saucer.
10. Remove the insides of the pumpkin to have a large enough cavity for filling the cooked rice or pilau.
11. After clearing out, sprinkle the insides of the pumpkin with salt and then add the rice.
12. Put on the lid, and apply oil all over the pumpkin, so that it gets baked nicely.
13. Then place 2 sheets of foil in a cross, and 2 sheets of wet and softened parchment paper also in a cross. Fold and wrap both parchment paper and foil sheets around the pumpkin tightly.
14. Place on an oven tray, then bake at 180 degrees celsius for 1 ½ - 2 hours until the pumpkin is cooked through and soft.
15. Remove the lid once it comes out of the oven, and let it sit for 15 minutes so excess steam can escape.
The dish comes out beautiful looking and good tasting with some effort in preparing the pumpkins. Take care to not overfill the pumpkin as this will make it mushy and sticky. Also do remember that baking time is also determined by the thickness of the pumpkin.