Pastilla, Bastilla, Bisteeya, B’stilla, Bstilla… or whatever the heck you want to call it.

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Err.. I couldn’t make up my mind on which spelling to use for this memorable Moroccan dish that combines the flavors and textures of savory meat, soft eggs, crunchy pastry and sweet spices. Though the traditional dish is usually made with squab or pigeon meat, in the US you’re likely to see chicken substituted instead which also works great. So are we ready to take a little trip down to Morocco together? Let’s go!

So much of the success of pastilla depends on Ras el hanout, a popular blend of herbs and spices that is used across North Africa. The name means “top of the shop” in Arabic, and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer. There are many different sorts of Ras el hanout, but whatever you do i recommend you make your own for this dish rather than to buy it at the grocery store. I compared my own to several purchased ones and i can tell you there’s a world of difference. If you want a dish with vibrant, exotic flavors, make your own, friends!

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The other important thing to remember about pastilla is that it’s traditionally made with feuilles de brick (also known as warka dough). I’m lucky to have a friend who brought some back from Montreal last week and i just couldn’t wait to play with it. Feuilles de brick look and feel like fine, lacy cloth with a satiny sheen and texture. When fried they are crisper than springroll pastry and when baked they have a dry, melt-in the-mouth crunchiness, which is better than filo. You could of course use filo in this recipe, lots of people do, but feuilles de brick are well worth looking for in Middle Eastern markets or you can order them via amazon website.

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The pigeon (or chicken) is braised in an aromatic broth with onions, ras al hanout, saffron until it falls of the bone. The spiced braising liquid is then reduced and a few eggs are scrambled in it and left to cool. Meanwhile, almonds are toasted and ground with sugar and cinnamon, the shredded meat is mixed with fresh coriander, parsley and lemon juice.

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The rest is pretty easy, the ingredients are layered inside the feuilles de brick to form neat little packages. You start with the almond/cinnamon mixture at the bottom, top with shredded aromatic meat and herbs, then goes the spiced egg scramble and finish with some more of the ground almond mix.

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Keep the little packages nice and tight, and cook them on both sides in clarified butter until golden brown. If you never worked with feuilles de brick you will be amazed at how crispy and delicious the dough gets. Side-effects include urges to wrap anything in it and deep-frying it.

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Drain the pastilla on paper towels and let them to cool for a little while. When they’re just warm, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon (yes, it’s the traditional way to do it).

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The least traditional thing about this post, i just realized, is serving them with a fork and a knife. What was i thinking!?  Those babies are best eaten with bare fingers to best absorb the sequence of taste, the harmony of textures and the.. the.. cacophony of smells!

Go ahead, get your fingers dirty and enjoy!

  • Pastilla, Bastilla, Bisteeya, B’stilla, Bstilla

    • Serve 6
    • pastilla-bstilla-bastilla-bisteya-41

    • For the ras el hanout:
    • 1/2 teaspoon aniseed
    • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
    • 8  allspice berries
    • seeds from 8 cardamom pods
    • 8 cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
    • 1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
    • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
    • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon cuminseed
    • a pinch dried red pepper flakes
    • a pinch ground mace
    • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
    • For the almond/cinnamon sugar:
    • 3/4 cup blanched whole marcona almonds, toasted
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • For the filling:
    • 3 squabs (pigeons) or 4 chicken legs
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    • 4 large eggs, beaten lightly
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
    • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
    • 1  lemon, juiced
    • 12 sheets feuilles de brick, or filo
    • 1 stick butter
    • confectioners’ sugar & cinnamon
  • pastilla-bstilla-bastilla-bisteya-3
    • For the ras el hanout:
    • Place the aniseed, fennel seeds, allspice berries, cardamom seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cuminseed, and red pepper flakes in a small saute pan and place over medium heat until fragrant. Let it cool and ground in a coffee grinder. Stir together ground spice mixture, mace, ginger, and nutmeg until combined.
    • For the almond/cinnamon sugar:
    • Place the almonds, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and grind to a powder.
    • For the filling:
    • Season the squabs parts (or chicken parts) with salt and pepper. Heat a large kettle saute pan, heat the olive oil and cook until golden brown. Add the chopped onion and garlic and keep cooking until translucent. Reduce the heat and add ground ginger and ras el hanout. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.
    • Add the chicken stock and saffron and bring to a simmer. Cover and lower the heat and keep simmering for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Transfer the squab or chicken to a tray to let it cool. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat and discard bones and skin.
    • Reduce the braising liquid until you have about 1 1/2 cup left. With the pan over high heat, add the eggs to the reduced braising liquid and scramble. Transfer the spiced scrambled eggs to a bowl and let it cool.
    • In another bowl, stir the chicken, parsley, coriander, lemon juice and season to taste if necessary. Chill until ready to use.
    • In a large nonstick pan melt butter.
    • Cut the feuilles de brick (or filo) into 9 inches circles and brush with butter. Place two sheets (or 4 if using filo) in a 6-inches tart ring or mold.
    • Sprinkle almond sugar on the bottom of the dough (see pictures above). Put chicken mixture over almond sugar and spread out tightly. Top with the spiced scramble eggs and top with 1 more tablespoon almond sugar.
    • Close the bastillas tighly to make neat little packages.
    • Cook the bastillas in butter in the nonstick saute pan until golden brown on both sides. Finish in a 350′F oven if making a large one.
    • Place the cooked bastillas on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm.
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  • mayssam

    wow, this sounds even better than I had imagined! and it looks like a cross between a savory dish and a dessert, I love it! I want! :)

  • http://www.norecipes.com Marc @ NoRecipes

    Hahahah… way to hit all the keywords for the search engines;-) I think you may beat by 6th place ranking on “bastilla recipe”:-) Yours is definitely more authentic than mine and now I want a bite. I’ll trade you some bell pepper upside-down cake for a bastilla!

  • Pingback: Betty’s Sizzling Grilled Beef Strip Steak Recipe | Electric Barbecue Grills

  • http://www.my-easy-cooking.com nina

    I have nothing to offer in return like Marc, but may I please have some!!!!

  • http://trissalicious.com Trissa

    I know what I call this – my wishful thinking dinner tonight! Looks delicious Mr. Zenman!

  • http://MyKugelhopf.ch Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf

    as much as i drool over your desserts, this one is for me too, i loooove morocco and moroccan cuisine. and certainly had my fill of b’stilla (i like that spelling, haha) when i backpacked around the country for a month (for my honeymoon no less!).

    i love how much powdered sugar is used as the finish – there’s my sweet tooth again. and even though i’d love to eat this with my fingers (eat it tout court!), i can hear the sound the brick makes when you cut into it with a knife… mmm, yet another post/recipe/photos mastered, thank you !!

  • http://invitadoinviernoeng.blogspot.com/ Miriam/The Winter Guest

    I’ve been wanting to make pastilla for ages but never got around to it. Your individual pastillas look amazing! And I’m hooked on ras el hanout, so I should try them…

  • http://sarkababicka.blogspot.com Sarka

    Pastilla, bastilla, whatever… it looks divine! This delicacy is absolutely new to me though. I can’t wait to get my hands on this!

  • http://www.mrsbastinsdelights.com EmmaB

    yum. I love pastilla and it’s my perennial favourite in moroccan restaurants. Now I can make my own! Thanks!

  • http://forkfingerschopsticks.com/ Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks

    This looks divine. Thanks for the introduction to what may be a long affinity.

  • http://www.myonlinemeals.com kathy

    I love the photos. Your pastilla looks so yummy. Thanks for posting this. I will try this next time that I crave for something new. :-)

  • http://www.mattikaarts.com/blog matt

    wow, absolutely delicious! I first saw this dish on a River Cottage episode, where Hugh made them from pigeon’s he shot locally. I can tell ya, that yours look far better (and also more authentic since he used filo).

    Love the photography again mate – clean, simple, crisp. Course, having fantastic looking food really helps there too!

  • http://www.kitchentravels.com Dawn (KitchenTravels)

    Everything that comes out of your kitchen makes my mouth water. Seriously, don’t you ever cook a flop? No matter, it’s a joy to visit your blog.

  • http://foodmayhem.com Jessica Lee Binder

    I’ve never eaten these and now I feel a big empty whole in my stomach.

  • http://bunkycooks.com bunkycooks

    Thank you for the introduction to Pastilla or Bastilla…whatever it is…it sounds unbelievable! I am on the hunt for feuilles de brick now! Thank you for the beautiful step by step photos.

  • http://curiouseats.blogspot.com CuriousEats – Lissa

    Beautfiul post. I’ve seen this on the menu at our Middle Eastern restaurant but never have tried it. This definitely makes me want to try it at home!

  • http://www.honeyfromrock.blogspot.com Claudia

    Wonder if there’s a Spanish connection to Pastel Azetca, which I had in mind to make this week. A Mexican dish, and layers with chicken and spicy sauce, etc. and crisp tortillas. Now I want to try your Moroccan adventure.

  • zenchef

    Claudia — Not sure if there’s a Spanish connection there. Surely looks/sounds like there is. We need a Food Historian in the house!

  • http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com Kitchen Butterfly

    Amazing photos, and step by step. I would eat this in a flash

  • http://myboyfriendcooksforme.blogspot.com my boyfriend cooks for me

    I went to Morocco last December, and while I am **still** not ready to eat kefta or couscous again, I never stopped thinking about pastilla.

  • http://www.notquitenigella.com Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    Ooh I’ve had this and it’s so unusual! Thanks for the recipe! :D

  • hargwyne

    I’ve made a version of this once before (with filo) but your’s sounds really rather good. And a little googling reveals a handy source for feuilles de brick. Thanks for posting!

  • http://thewitchykitchen.blogspot.com/ Stella

    My family makes Bisteeya with pigeon. Yours looks beautiful, but I must say I was hoping you would break the mold and use pigeon. Can’t say i blame you for not though (smile)…

  • Nadia

    Cool Recipe #2

    Me

  • http://www.bearheadsoup.blogspot.com/ deb

    Thanks for the recipe. http://bearheadsoup.blogspot.com/2010/05/brick-brik-malsouka-warka-etc.html I made them over the weekend. YUMMM Looking forward to trying more of your recipes, cheers Deb

  • Marcos Sawasdee

    Hey Zen, great blog !
    Have ever tried to do with rice paper ?

  • Valera

    I love this recipe, I’ve made exactly the same for my husband! If you like the idea, you can find some other recipies here http://searchizz.com/search.php?q=pastilla+recipe

  • Benjamin

    this dish is authentic and awesome! I first learned about it from the Philadelphia restaurant school in 1988 bitches! I’m going to make individual ones at some point as I am winning Hell’s Kitchen.

  • Nada

    This is actually a twist on the standard Moroccan Bastilla but I certainly appreciate the fact that you have tried! I am Moroccan and even from Fes..
    We bake it but NEVER fry it! unless you do it in small triangle which we call Briouates..
    The green stuff should be finely chopped..no cloves, no Ras el Hanout but there should be a hint of cinnamon in the mixture mostly coming from cinnamon stick. a hint of honey or sugar in that mixture.
    Almond in the mixture should be golden brown and then coarsly chopped..and that is missing. Some people even start adding a kind of almond praline paste instead but it’s a must to have almond
    Overall..It’s seriously amazing that you have tried..I know moroccan people who would never dare lol..
    I just happen to know because I come from a family of good cooks…

  • Anonymous

    Hi Nada, thanks for your comment. I’m sure there are many different variations on bastilla. This recipe actually includes almonds, mixed with cinnamon and sugar. Cheers!