|Margarita's International Recipes|
Bastilla, a delicate and aromatic pigeon pie, is a true gift from the gods, the highlight of Moroccan cuisine. A specialty of Fez, bastilla is a special occasion dish, served during Ramadan and other festive times. It's truly delicious and deceptively easy to prepare.
Indeed, for many years I was afraid of trying to make bastilla, it looked difficult and beyond my culinary skills. And while it is a bit complicated and time consuming - you have to prepare the chicken, almonds and eggs separately and then assemble the pie - each step is pretty easy in itself. The results will amaze you and convince your friends you are a cooking wonder.
Traditionally, bastilla is made with pigeon. Moroccan pigeons are different from American pigeons, so even if you could get these, it wouldn't be advisable to use them. Chicken works very well. Making the warka, the very delicate dough called for the bastilla pie, would also be too complicated - so much so that none of the recipes for bastilla I found actually included a recipe for it. The recipe I used recommends that you use 8" round egg roll skins, as they give you a closer approximation to the chewy warkas. Still, many other recipes call for phyllo dough and I decided on it because I figured it'd be easier. It may not be terrible authentic, but it's very good.
My other modification to this recipe was to cut the eggs by half. I'm just not a big egg fan.
I've made this recipe many times since, and most recently as a vegetarian dish using Quorn Chicken Tenders. To make it vegetarian, use 24 oz (2 packages) of quorn, and reduce simmering time to 30 minutes, instead of an hour. You may also need to add more water, up to another cup. The quorn retains more water than the chicken, so squeeze and shread it.
For the chicken
3 lbs skinless chicken pieces 8 tbsp. butter, sliced 2 onions, grated 1 bunch (20 springs) Italian parsley, chopped 1 tsp. ground ginger 1/2 tsp. turmeric 2 cinnamon sticks 1 tsp. black pepper 2 tsp. salt 1 cup water 2 tbsp. sugar
For the Almonds
1 cup vegetable oil 1 cup almonds 4 tbsp. sugar 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
For the Eggs
4 eggs, beaten 1/2 cup reserved chicken sauce juice of 1 lemon
For the pie
1 package phillo dough melted butter 1 egg yolk, beaten 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
Prepare the chicken
Sautee the chicken on the butter. Add the onions, parsley, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon sticks, pepper and salt, mix well and sautee together for 15 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 1 hour.
Remove the chicken from the pot. Pull off and discard any skin and bones. Shread the chicken into 2" pieces. Add the sugar, mix and set aside.
Remove and discard the cinnamon sticks and any bones or chicken skin left on the chicken sauce (the simmering liquid). Leave 1/2 cup of chicken sauce in the pot (to mix with the eggs) and discard the rest.
Prepare the almonds
Blanch the onions and remove their skin. Heat the oil to low heat and brown the almonds until lightly browned, around 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove and drain on paper towels. Put the almonds, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and grind.
Prepare the eggs
Warm the chicken sauce over low heat and add the lemon juice. Bring to a slow boil and slowly add the eggs, stirring constantly. Cook until they have a scrambled egg consistency. Drain any extra liquid and let cool.
Assemble the pie
Butter an 9"x13" oven-safe pan and place 4 or 5 phyllo sheets on it. Brush with melted butter, spread a thin layer of chicken and cover with 2 or 3 phyllo sheets. Brush phyllo sheets with butter, spread a thin layer of almonds, cover with another couple of sheets of phyllo, butter and spread a layer of eggs. Repeat with other layers of chicken/almonds/egg/ until all the fillings are used up. Cover with several sheets of phyllo dough and tug them into the bottom of the pie, encasing the whole thing. Brush with the beaten egg yolk.
Heat the oven to 425F and put the pie inside (you don't need to preheat). Cook for about 15" or until golden. Remove the pie from the oven and turn into a serving plate. Brush with powdered sugar and cinnamon, making designs if you so chose to. Serve.
Adapted from The Great Book of Couscous