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Persian Pumpkin Stew

1 lb stew meat (lamb or beef)
2 small pumpkins or 1 med-small pumpkin (see note)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup dried prunes
2-3 Tablspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 chopped medium onion
salt and pepper to taste
pinch saffron disolved in 1/4 cup warm water (optional)

Baking pumpkins are the best since they are sweeter and less stringy.
I have used jack o lantern pumpkins when feeling frugal and the
dish was still good. You want about twice the volume of meat in
peeled pumpkin slices.

Brown the meat and add about 1 and 1/2 cups water. Add tomato
paste, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron and salt and pepper and sauteed
onion. Cook covered ata simmer for about 1 and 1/2 to two hours.
Meat should be tender and nearly falling apart stage. You may need
to add water during cooking but you shouldn't end up with more than
the stated amount. You don't want a watery stew.

In the meantime, seed the pumpkin and slice into 2X2 inch pieces
and peel. Brown on both sides in corn oil. The pumpkin should
become brown in some places and somewhat flexible but not totally
cooked. Add to meat and cook covered an additional 20-30 minutes
until tender but not falling apart. A fork should go into the
pumpkin easily but not break it up. Add the prunes the last 5
minutes of cooking. They shouldn't really cook too much but should
get warm.

Serve over hot basmati rice.


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