Afghanistan is a large landlocked country in Central Asia, unfortunately one that nowadays most would first associate with war or terrorism. Many also know the Afghan hounds, which originated from Afghanistan. It is a dry, mountainous country which gets quite a few earthquakes. The area has been inhabited by humans for up to 50,000 years. Afghanistan is a tribal and nomadic society, almost completely Muslim. The country has large natural resources consisting of e.g. oil, gas and various minerals. Still it is one of the poorest countries in the world, where especially maternal mortality and infant mortality are very high. Despite low literacy rates, poetry has long been an important cultural tradition. Football, cricket and some other sports are popular. Buzkhashi is a traditional sport resembling polo.
The Afghan cuisine could be described as somewhere between Middle Eastern food and Indian food. It tends to be not spicy even though many spices are used, including cilantro, coriander, mint, sumac, saffron and cardamom. The country is known for its fruit, especially pomegranates and grapes (hence also raisins). Fruit and vegetables may be made into pickles. Other important ingredients include e.g. lamb, yogurt, potatoes, nuts, tomato, onion, turnip, eggplant and spinach. Rice dishes are also considered the core of Afghan cuisine, including the national dish qabili palao with meat, raisins and pistachios. Some rice dishes also include fruit. Bulgur wheat is eaten as well and there are several types of dumplings. Food is often served with naan or another bread.
In Finland butternut squash was something exotic, very hard to find and very expensive, so I first tried it only after moving to the Netherlands, where suddenly it was everywhere. It was somewhat of a disappointment, I prefer pumpkin. However, this recipe was quite nice and looks fancy too, the squash slices looking like crescent moons. Despite the fanciness there’s a certain comfort food feel to it, in a good way.
I hate peeling raw squash, I think it works the best here to first slice, then peel the half-moons, but it may depend on the knife you use. The original recipe tells you to make the slices about 1/4 inch thick, but considering I cut them slightly thinner, they took much longer to roast than in the original recipe and they look thicker when finished, I think that’s too thick.
I’m not sure if there is such a thing as commercial vegan Greek yogurt, but you could either strain normal soy yogurt or just do as I did: add a little oil, a little lemon juice (depending on the tartness of the yogurt) and a tiny sprinkle xanthan gum to make the flavor and texture resemble Greek yogurt more.
1 medium butternut squash
olive oil for roasting
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup/1,75 dl vegan plain Greek yogurt (see notes)
salt to taste
more olive oil
Preheat oven to 410F/210C. Halve the butternut squash lengthwise, remove the seeds and the pulpy mass surrounding them, slice the squash into thin half-circle slices of about 1/8-1/6 inch, or 3-4 mm thick, and peel the slices. Toss with enough olive oil to coat and the turmeric, coriander and cumin. Roast for 20-30 minutes in the oven, until soft and starting to brown. Toss with salt and let cool.
Place vegan yogurt on a plate, top with the squash slices, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried mint. Serve as an appetizer, cold or in room temperature. Serves at least 6-8 people.