Pumpkin, Chickpea & Oxtail Stew

Halloween, which originated in Celtic culture 2000 years ago, is one of the oldest holidays.  I was first exposed to it when I moved to California from Korea in 1984. I still remember how fun it was to watch kids, dressed up in adorable costumes, knocking on houses decorated with colorful pumpkins to “trick or treat”. Ever since then, Halloween has always meant a “time for some fun” and a “pumpkin festival” for me.

Pumpkin has an interesting flavor. To me, it tastes a bit like a blend of cucumber, potato and apple. Although pumpkin grows all around the world (except Antarctica), I never had a chance to cook with it. So, getting a little bit adventurous, I decided to make Food Network’s “Pumpkin, Chickpea, Oxtail Stew” for Ronnie’s Halloween party this week.

I started my adventure by browning 2 lbs of oxtails with some grape-seed oil and stir-frying 3 onions (chopped), 8 cloves garlic (minced), 4 Tbs chopped ginger, 4 carrots (cubed), a pinch of saffron, 1/2 ts turmeric, 1 ts cinnamon, 1 Tbs red chili flakes, sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Then, I poured enough boiling water to cover all the ingredients in a pot and lowered the heat to simmer for 2-3 hours. The next day, I cooked 2 cups of dry chickpeas, which had been soaked in water overnight, for 30 minutes. Then, I added a half of small pumpkin (cut into bite sizes) to the pot and cooked for another 10 minutes. Finally, I combined both pots into a big wok and tossed 4 Tbs cilantro, 4 Tbs parsley and some toasted pumpkin seed oil.  I simmered for an additional 20 minutes to fully integrate all flavors.

Sounds complicated? Not really! You chop and throw, and a slow cooker or thick cast iron pot does most of the work for you. This stew is one of the most fragrant dishes I’ve ever made. The enticing aromas of cinnamon, turmeric and ginger fill my kitchen with a warm and earthy feel. The subtle sweetness of chickpeas and starchy, apply texture of pumpkin also blend extremely well with the broth. And, there is nothing like slow-cooked oxtail! It tastes as wonderful as braised short-ribs. What an amazing comfort food this stew is!

This savory dish has overarching sweet, cozy tone, which Danes would call “Hyggelig”. “Hyggelig” is a Danish word to describe a “candle light feel”, which generally means “cozy, welcoming & enticing”. I’m taking this dish to a Halloween party, though it has more of a “Danish Christmas feel” for me. Whatever it evokes, I hope this dish will make people feel cozy and welcomed at Ronnie’s Halloween party.  Happy Halloween!

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