Sweet-and-sour pumpkin and lamb stew

Before Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas in 1494, cooks following the Persian-Arabian culinary tradition had to rely on a type of calabash pumpkin that couldn’t be used when ripe (the pumpkin dried out and became hollow as it ripened). Therefore they prepared green pumpkin stew.

Jan van Riebeeck planted South American pumpkins at the Cape quite early on and these large white pumpkins became so popular that they were later known as boerpampoen. They were served as vegetables during the winter and were suitable as rations on the many ships that docked in Table Bay. At the Cape, green pumpkins were used in early summer for stews, while ripe pumpkins were used in winter.

Try the Recipe for Sweet and Sour Pumpkin and Lamb stew from our Cape Winelands Cuisine Cookbook (page 107)



1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup (250 ml) good-quality red wine

½ cup (125 ml) dry sherry

½ cup 125 ml) wine vinegar

3 Tbsp (45 ml) pumpkin seeds

1 tsp (5 ml) salt

1 tsp (5 ml) freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground ginger

½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon

Pinch of saffron

2 Tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh mint

½ cup (125 ml) whole almonds, blanched

1 tsp (5 ml) fennel seeds, crushed

2 Tbsp (30 ml) honey


Place all the marinade ingredients in an earthenware dish and marinate the lamb in this mixture for 3-4 hours.



1.2 kg lamb breast, cut into chunks

2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil

4 cups (1 litre) lamb stock (see recipe on page 243) or water

2 cups (500 ml) fresh greenish apricots, cut into chunks, or ½ cup (125 ml) dried apricots

1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk

2 cups (500 ml) diced pumpkin (if using green pumpkin, remember to reduce the liquid as the pumpkin draws a lot of water)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 160 °C (325 °F).

Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry.

Discard the marinade.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and brown the meat in the hot oil.

Place the meat, stock, apricots and buttermilk in an oven casserole with a tight-fitting lid and bake in the oven for 3 hours, or until almost tender. Add the pumpkin and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until done.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread or rice and a sambal.