Pastilla -- a savoury Moroccan pie
4-6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes (1 hr prep, 45 min cooking)

In Morocco, this dish is traditionally made with pigeon meat but chicken works equally well. The flaky layers of pastry, tender meat and sugar-cinnamon topping make a delightful combination. If you want to make this for a dinner party, just prepare it ahead of time, then freeze until a few hours before you need to serve it.

  • 12–15 sheets phyllo dough
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 lbs chicken pieces
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or butter , melted
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pinch saffron, in
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 cups water (or more)
  • 12 ounces blanched almonds
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • icing sugar (to garnish)
  • cinnamon (to garnish)
  • About 2 hours before starting, remove the phyllo dough from the freezer but keep covered.
  • Salt and pepper the chicken. Brown in its own juices in a heavy skillet. Remove to a plate.
  • Add the onions and parsley to the skillet along with 2 tbsp vegetable oil or margarine. Sauté until golden, stirring frequently.
  • Return chicken to the skillet and add coriander, turmeric, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, saffron in water, allspice, and 2 cups water or more if you think it is needed. Bring to a slow boil then cover and simmer about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
  • Meanwhile, sauté the almonds in 4 tbsp oil until brown and remove to dry on paper towels. When cool and dry, chop the almonds coarsely and combine with the sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • If you are going to cook the pastilla immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • When chicken is done, remove from pot and let cool. If you wish, skim off some of the fat from the sauce and leave sauce over small flame to reduce the stock to about 1 1/2 cups.
  • When the chicken is cool, debone it and, using your fingers, break it into small chunks, about 1/4 inch each. Place on a plate.
  • When the sauce is reduced, slowly add the beaten eggs and stir for a minute or two until eggs become custardlike. Do not let the sauce become too dry.
  • You can assemble the pie several ways, using either a round quiche pan or a 9 X 13-inch dish. Brush oil on the bottom of either pan you use.

    For the rectangular method: place 1 filo sheet in the pan and brush with oil. Repeat with 5 more sheets. Over them, spread 1/2 the nuts, 1/2 the egg mixture, all the chicken the remaining egg mixture, and the remaining nuts. Cover with 5-6 sheets of filo, again brushing with oil each time. Fold over any loose ends and brush the tops with oil.Take a last leaf of filo, fold under so that it neatly covers the pie, and brush with oil.

    For the circular method: place one sheet of filo in the middle of the quiche pan. Brush with oil and then repeat with 5 more filo sheets, moving thepan a bit so that the filo fans the entire pan. Fold 2 pieces of filo and place in center. In a circle 9 inches in diameter, sprinkle 1/2 the almonds on top, then 1/2 the egg mixture, all the chicken, the remaining egg mixture and finally the remaining almonds. Cover with the extended edges of the 6 filo sheets, brushing the edges first. Seal down, then place 2 more sheets of filo on top. Fold over and seal underneath, so that an enclosed circular crust is formed.

  • Bake the pie 30-45 minutes, until top is evenly browned.
  • When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with confectioners' sugar and cinnamon, almonds, or both, in crisscross fashion over the entire pastilla.
  • If preparing in advance, make up the pie, then layer with aluminum foil and freeze.
    Remove a few hours before cooking and cook as normal. You may need to bake it a bit longer if cooking from frozen.