Mediterranean Cuisine: Bisteeya (Pastilla Recipe)
- 2 tbsp (30ml) sunflower oil, plus extra for brushing
- 2 tbsp-1 oz (25g) butter
- 3 chicken quarters, preferably breasts
- 1 ½ Spanish onions, grated or finely chopped
- A good pinch of ground ginger
- A good pinch of saffron strands
- 2 tsp (10ml) ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
- 1 ½ oz 4 tbsp (40g) flaked almonds
- 1 large bunch fresh coriander,
- Finely chopped
- 1 large bunch fresh parsley,
- Finely chopped
- 3 eggs, beaten
- About 6oz (175g) filo pastry
- 1-2 tsp (5-10ml) icing sugar (optional),
- Plus extra for dusting
- Salt and ground black pepper
- #Bisteeya is one of the most elaborate and intriguing dishes in Moroccan cuisine. It is often the centerpiece at feasts and banquets, and is normally made using pigeon, which is then layered with a wafer-thin pastry known as ouarka and cooked in a tin over hot coals. This simplified version uses chicken and filo.# Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole and brown the chicken pieces for about 4 minutes. Add the onions, ginger, saffron, 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) of the cinnamon and enough water so that the chicken braises, rather than boils (about 1/2 pint 1 1/4 cups – 300 ml). Season well.
- Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 45-55 minutes over a gentle heat, until the chicken is tender and completely cooked. Meanwhile, dry-fry the almonds until golden and set aside.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate and, when cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and cut the flesh into pieces.
- Stir the coriander and parsley into the pan and simmer the sauce until well-reduced and thick. Add the beaten eggs and cook over a very gentle heat until the eggs are lightly scrambled.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/Gas 4. Oil a round shallow flameproof dish, about 25cm/10in in diameter. Place one or two sheets of filo pastry in a single layer over the bottom of the dish, so that it is completely covered and the edges of the pastry sheets hang over the sides. Brush lightly with oil and add two more layers of filo, brushing each layer lightly with oil.
- Place the chicken on the pastry and then spoon the egg and herb mixture over the top.
- Place a single layer of filo pastry on top of the filling (you may need to use more than one sheet of filo pastry) and scatter with the almonds. Sift the remaining cinnamon and the icing sugar, if using, on top.
- Fold the edges of the filo over the almonds and then make four further layers of filo (using one or two sheets per layer, depending on size), brushing each layer with a little oil. Tuck the filo edges under the pie (as if you were making a bed!) and brush the top layer with oil.
- Bake the pie in the oven for 40-45 minutes until golden. Dust the top with icing sugar, if using, and use the extra cinnamon to make criss-cross or diagonal lines. Serve immediately.