Often prepared around Christmastime, ghapama is a stuffed pumpkin dish from the Armenian community in Lebanon. The guts of the pumpkin are removed, and then it is stuffed with boiled rice and dried fruits like apple, apricot, dates, plums, and raisins together with nuts. The pumpkin is baked until it softens.
This dish would be a welcome change for a Thanksgiving table, accompanied with some hot spiced tea.
The size of the pumpkin (or squash) can vary depending on the number of servings needed.
I added spices that are not traditionally used here, such as turmeric and cardamom; the native recipe only calls for ground cinnamon, cloves and salt.
I have also added roasted pumpkin seeds instead of the traditional walnuts or almonds.
The key element in this dish is the honey or sugar added; if you like it sweet or not, adjust the honey or sugar to taste. I found that the elements of the pilaf were already sweet (raisins, apricot leather, dried cranberries), so I have cautious with the sugar. I would definitely sprinkle some sugar or honey on the empty pumpkin inside (after lathering it with butter), but I would be careful adding too much honey or sugar into the rice itself. Your call.
Stuffed pumpkin (Ghapama)Joumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern October 17, 2020 Whole Grain/Bulgur/Rice, Main Dish, Armenian, stuffed veggies, pumpkin, ghapama,
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
1 pumpkin (around 5 lbs)
1 1/2 cups Basmati rice (or long-grain)
1/4 cup raisins (preferably golden)
1/3 cup chopped dried cranberries (or sour cherries)
2 green apples, chopped
1/2 cup diced dried apricots (I used amardeen aka apricot leather instead)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (roasted) *these are sold in Latino markets in the US and called pepitas
1/4 cup sugar (brown or raw sugar is best, more or less, to taste)
OR 1/4 cup honey (more or less, to taste)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (more, to taste)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 to 3/4 cup water or veggie or chicken broth (depending on how firm the rice is, if it is very firm, add more water or broth)
1/2 cup melted butter
- Wash and dry the outside of the pumpkin.
- Cut off the top of the pumpkin and set it aside. If you can, carve a star from the top portion, which will make it very pretty. Remove the seeds and fibrous pulp inside.
- Once the inside of the pumpkin is scraped and clean, wash it in running water. Now fill the pumpkin with water to measure the volume and get an idea of how much rice needs to be cooked. If you find that the pumpkin will fit in 3 cups of water, then you get one cup of rice (which will increase to 3 cups once the other ingredients are added).
- Cook the rice until almost done (keep it still al dente, undercooked and firm by about 5 minutes). Transfer the rice into a bowl and add the apple, raisins, cranberries, apricot, pumpkin seeds, sugar (or honey), cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric and salt.
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Slather some butter and honey or sugar inside the empty pumpkin; then fill the pumpkin with the rice pilaf mixture. Sprinkle water and melted butter over the rice. Top the pumpkin with its cap and wrap it in foil. Bake for about an hour or longer until the pumpkin is cooked and the rice pilaf is nice and steamy hot. Serve by cutting it, like a cake or opening the cap and scooping out the pilaf with a piece of pumpkin.
In the classic recipe, dried prunes (and/or dates) are used, and the nuts of choice are walnuts or almonds. I just picked different dried fruits based on what I had in my pantry.
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