Ahh, the famous traditional Moroccan Chicken Pastilla (Bastilla). Pastilla is the Moroccan name for a traditional chicken filo pastry pie.
Pastilla is undoubtedly one of the ultimate manifestations of beauty, refinement and delicacy of Moroccan cuisine. It is prepared for great dinners and wedding ceremonies. Usually, it is served after or with small plates of fresh Moroccan salads and before the main meat Tagine and often enjoyed with Moroccan tea.
Moroccan Chicken Pastilla is made of fine layers of almost transparent pastry called “Warqa” which is a brick pastry. However, since the famous warqa/warka is only available in Morocco, you can easily substitute it with filo pastry sheets or if you are confident enough you can even make your own. This golden, crispy & flaky filo-wrapped pie is stuffed with a flavoursome chicken filling that incorporates eggs and topped with a crunchy, sweet almond layer.
Although I was very much aware of the many famous forms of Moroccan Pastilla like the Seafood Bastilla and even ground Meat-based Moroccan Pastillas, I was very surprised to learn that the most traditional and probably the eldest style of Pastilla was actually prepared with pigeons instead of chicken!
Today I will be sharing with you my aunties recipe that uses chicken but if you are like the Egyptians who love their cooked pigeons, you can easily replace the chicken with that if you wanted, bearing in mind you will need more than one 😉
Moroccan Chicken Pastilla Recipe
- Chicken Mix :
- 1 whole large chicken (about 1.5 kg)
- 1 handful of chopped fresh parsley
- 1 handful of chopped fresh coriander
- 2 large onions chopped very finely.
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp crushed saffron good quality one
- 1 tbsp butter or smin (preserved butter) optional
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 tsp salt to taste
- 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar (if desired, I don't use it)
- 6 eggs
Almond Nut Mix
- 250g blanched almonds boiled, peeled & fried until golden brown
- ½ tbsp orange blossom water
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 50 g granulated sugar
- filo pastry sheets (or Moroccan warqa sheets) get 2 packs just in case.
- icing sugar & cinnamon powder for garnish (you can also use some fried whole or crushed almonds)
- Wash the chicken really well with salt, water & lemon. I rinse the chicken first with water then use 1/2 fresh lemon and rub it all over the chicken. I then juice it and rub the juice in the same manner with my hands. Then I use sea salt to scrub all over the outside and inside of the chicken. Some prefer to use vinegar. Let it sit like this for maybe 5-10 minutes then rinse again with tap water before cooking. (you can cook the chicken whole or cut it into 4 quarters for easier & quicker cooking)
- In a large pot, put the chopped onions in the oil and butter if you are using it and add the chicken, herbs & spices. Stir and cook for a few minutes.
- When it has steamed through and is well fried add some boiled water, just so it almost covers the chicken if its cut. Or about 4 cups if it's whole.
- When it is boiling cover the pot and lower the heat to medium fire. Keep stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until the chicken is cooked and the meat separates easily from the bones. The water will slightly evaporate (you can save about 4 tablespoons of the chicken stock in a bowl and set it aside for later.
- When the chicken is cooked remove it from the sauce and place it on a plate to cool.
- Crack open the eggs in a mixing bowl and stir into the chicken sauce a couple at a time continuing to stir, scramble the eggs in the sauce over low heat until done, then set aside when they have evaporated the juice.
- When the chicken has cooled down remove the meat from the bones and break it up into small pieces.
- In a blender, mix the fried almonds with the cinnamon, sugar and orange blossom water and blend into a soft mixture of medium-sized crumbs. (be careful not to blend too fine) Then set aside.
- Grease an oven-proof round baking tray with butter. (anything similar to a pizza pan with sides)
- Moroccan warqa is round in shape, this may not be available in the UK, although I have seen some Turkish versions in Middle Eastern shops. If this is not an option and you get filo pastry that is square, you will need to maybe cut them into rounds (as you would parchment paper to bake a cake) this will be much easier than trying to fold the rectangle/square sheets
- Place 1 sheet of warqa or filo pastry on the bottom of the baking tray and brush well with some melted butter (butter side up) do this 5 times overlapping them and rotating in the form of flower petals, leaving the access pastry to rest over the edges of the dish ( basically half of each pastry sheet should be inside the plan and the other half resting over the edges of the pan to fold over the mixture after).
- When you have rotated the filo sheets around the pan you top it up with 2 or 3 more sheets in the middle to seal the other layers together before adding the mix. Again brush with butter.
- Form the first layer by placing the egg mix all along the bottom of the pan using the back of a spoon to spread it perfectly around the edges and even it out accordingly.
- Arrange the chicken pieces along the top of the egg mix to form the second layer then lightly drizzle over it the little bit of chicken stock we saved from earlier.
- At this point, you can add a new filo pastry sheet on top and brush it with butter before spreading it over the crushed almond mixture. Again use a spoon to see if it goes generously around the edges & level out accordingly.
- Add another sheet of filo pastry on top of the nut mix and fold over the edges inwards, brush with butter. Then fold the remaining overlapped layers that are over the edges inwards also to form a smooth circular shape.
- Arrange 2 or 3 new sheets of filo pastry on top to cover the overlapping and close firmly by tucking into the bottom.
- Once you have sealed your Bastilla, glaze it with an egg yolk.
- Bake in the middle level of a preheated oven for about 45 minutes on medium heat (depending on your oven).
- Bastilla should be golden brown all over and crispy to the touch.
- When it has cooled down a bit, it is traditionally sprinkled with icing sugar over the top and decorated with cinnamon powder. But on this occasion, we decorated with almonds. Make sure to serve straight away 😉