In its modern form, a pastilla is an elaborate, layered, savory meat pie of Moroccan origin. It is bastila (pronounced in English as "basteela"), bastal, bestila, besthila, bastila, bastilla, pastel, pastelis, pastela, b'steeya, bisteeya, biastayla, bistya, etc., depending on whether you are (or claim the roots of this dish are) Iberian (Spanish, Portugese, Mozarab), Latin, Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, or Berber. The dish probably migrated to the Iberian peninsula (current day Spain and Portugal) during the Moorish conquest of the 8th - 10th century. Traditionally it is made with the meat of baby pigeons ("squabs"). Where I live these days, supermarkets typically don't carry that kind of meat, so chicken is used instead.
I was introduced to this pie at one of the convivial dinners at the local flying club at Toulouse/Blagnac airport, where one of the ladies, Marion, had gone through the great effort of preparing a number of them. She kindly shared her recipe with me. It only had amounts for about half of the ingredients, so I adjusted them to my liking. I also adapted it to baking the pie in a springform pan, which works very well.
- Preparation time: 90 minutes
- Cook/bake time: 1 hour
- Makes 8 servings.
- Freezes well.
- Can also be made with fish or fowl
Last page update: 23 November 2017
- 800 grams (1.75 lbs) of boneless, skinless chicken filet
- 750 gram (1.6 lbs) of yellow onions, peeled, sliced & diced
- Weight before cleaning is about 850 grams (nearly 2 lbs)
- Use a kitchen machine to chop the onions in 2 seconds!
- 6 eggs
- 125 grams (4-5 oz) slivered almonds
- 5 tablespoons of honey (I prefer orange blossom honey)
- 3 rounded tablespoons ground cumin
- 3 rounded tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
- 3 rounded tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (the regular variety with flat leaves, not with curly leaves)
- 4 rounded tablespoons chopped coriander (it is OK to include the stems, after you cut off their ends)
- 1 rounded tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- optional: pinch of saffron
- 8 round sheets of brick dough (also "brik" or "boerek"; F: feuilles de brick)
- This is paper-thin pastry dough of North African / Tunisian origin. The Moroccan equivalent is called "warqa" ( = leaf or sheet). It looks a bit like phyllo dough (φύλλο = leaf or sheet), but is less fragile and much easier to handle
- They round sheets normally have a diameter of about 35-40 cm (14-16 inch)
The ingredients for the filling - ready for assembly
EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES
- Non-stick frying pan
- Large wok
- Springform pan (25 cm / 10 inch diameter)
- Food processor / kitchen machine
- Vegetable oil
- 2 very large spoons
- Large cutting board (wider than the diameter of the springform pan)
- Thin flat spatula (turner/flipper)
PREPARATION / DIRECTIONS
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (390 °F)
- In a non-stick frying pan, toast the almonds until golden (do not add oil or butter!)
- Clean sinews, membranes, fat etc. off the chicken
- Cut the chicken into dice
- Make the pieces about 2-3 cm (1 inch) in size. Do not make them smaller, as the chicken will shrink while cooking, and small pieces will get dry. They will be cut after cooking them.
- Note: some recipes use shredded meat, instead of diced.
- In a hot large non-stick frying pan or wok, brown the chicken pieces - takes about 5 minutes
- The pan has to be big enough such that all pieces of chicken easily fit on the bottom and are not on top of each other. I recommend frying the meat in two batches.
- Add some vegetable oil (1-2 teaspoons) to the hot pan and swirl the oil around
- The pan has to be hot enough to sear the meat. If the pan is not hot enough, the chicken will get boiled instead of cooked & browned! If the meat releases water: the pan is not hot enough!
- Put the pieces of chicken into the pan, and leave alone for about 3 minutes, then turn over.
- Brown the pieces on all sides. Do not overcook, as the meat will become dry. Don't worry: it will continue to cook for a while once removed from the pan, and will also be baked in the oven.
- Cut the chicken pieces in half
- In the large wok, slowly cook the onions in couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil until soft - takes about 15 minutes. Do not fry them!
- First heat up the oil, then add the onions, and reduce the heat to a bit more than "low".
- Stir and spread out the onions regularly. I do this with two wooden spatulas.
- If any parts turn brown, reduce the heat immediately!
- Add the honey and stir
- Add the chicken, saffron, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic and stir
- Add the parsley, coriander, and the almonds, and stir
- Keep the heat on "low"
- Lightly beat the eggs
- The next steps have to be done quickly:
- Pour the eggs on top of the onion-and-chicken mass
- Immediately fold the eggs into the mass - use two very large spoons or spatulas to do this
- Continue folding until the eggs are completely blended with the mass, and the eggs have solidified (if this takes more than 1 minute, increase the heat)
- Stack 3 sheets of brick dough, and line the bottom of a springform pan with them
- The sheets are larger than the diameter of the pan - fold the excess part of the sheets upward against the inside of the rim of the pan; it will be a bit ruffled.
- Put half of the chicken & onion mix into the dough "basket"
- Spread out the filling evenly and push it up against the dough and the wall of the springform pan.
- Stack 2 sheets of brick dough and put them on top of the first layer of chicken & onion
- Again, fold the excess part of the sheets upward against the rim of the pan
- Put the remainder of the chicken & onion mix on top of those sheets, and spread out evenly
- Stack 3 sheets of brick dough and put them on top of the second layer of chicken & onion
- This time, tuck in the excess part of the sheets downward around the outside of the other sheets
- Use a table knife to pull back those sheets a little from rim of the pan.
- With both hands flat, push down a little onto the top dough sheets
Ready to go into the oven
- Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes
- Remove from the oven
- Cover with a large enough cutting board (or cookie/baking sheet) and turn over
- Undo the rim of the springform pan; remove the rim and the bottom of the pan
- Use a flipper to lift up the pastilla and slide the bottom (careful: hot) of the springform pan under it
- Put the rim (careful: hot) of the springform pan back around the pastilla
- Put back into the oven, and bake for another 15 minutes
Right out of the oven
SERVING & GARNISH SUGGESTIONS
- Serve with a light red wine
- Try with adding half a cup of yellow raisins, soaked in hot water or sweet wine, to the filling.
- Try with ground lamb meat instead of chicken.
- Some people use Moroccan "Ras el Hanout" spice mix instead of mixing the spices listed above as part of the ingredients.
- Some people sprinkle the top of the pie with powdered cinnamon and sugar, before the final baking.
- The filling can also be rolled into pastry dough, to make ca. 10 cm (4 inch) long rolls with the ends pinched, and deep fried. This process is similar to making triangular Indian samosas.
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