B’stilla – or bisteeya – is a classic Moroccan pie, traditionally made with pigeon or squab, but also with chicken, combining both sweet and savoury elements. It is also something that I have been dying to try ever since I first saw a recipe for it. I thought that I had hit pay-dirt when dining at a new Moroccan restaurant in town just after Christmas, only to be told that it had been so popular they had run out. I sulked for a while, then had a glass of mint tea and bravely soldiered on through the rest of a stunning meal, resigned to the inevitability of cooking it myself.
This recipe is the adapted version that I finally placed with a flourish (and some baked carrots) on the dinner table last night. Some may prefer a little more cayenne pepper, but I am a coward at heart.
One doesn’t like to sound immodest, but this pie is to die for. It made me very happy.
125 gms butter NOT margarine!
700 gms chicken thigh fillets
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne (more if you are brave)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
250 ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 pinch of saffron threads, soaked in the stock
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 bunch flat leaf parsley chopped
1 bunch coriander, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
80gm finely chopped, roasted almonds
2 Tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pkt filo pastry
Melt 1/2 butter in an oven-proof dish and brown chicken, set aside. Add onions and cook gently until golden. Add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes, add spice and stir, add stock and saffron. Return chicken, turn to coat, cover and bake in oven 160C for 40 minutes.
Remove and discard cinnamon stick, remove chicken, chop up and set aside.
Add lemon juice and herbs to remaining sauce, reduce until thick. Turn heat to very low, add eggs, stir until scrambled. Remove from heat and add chicken, taste and season as required.
Mix almonds with icing sugar and cinnamon.
Grease a shallow pie dish with butter and layer 6 sheets of filo pastry in dish, brushing each with melted butter and rotating the sheets with the edges hanging over the dish. Fill with the chicken mix, fold 3 of the sheets over the pie, brush with butter and sprinkle generously with almond mixture. Fold remaining sheets over and tuck around the dish. Brush again with melted butter. I scrunched some extra sheets of buttered filo onto the top to make it look pretty.
Bake at 180C 45 minutes, or until golden. Serve with any extra almond mixture.
Sit back and accept all compliments!!