Moroccan cuisine loves to mix salty and sweet flavours – no-where is this more evident than in their much-loved Pastilla. A fragrant shredded chicken, egg and almond filled pie, baked to golden-crisp perfection and then finished with a generous dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon. A salty-sweet masterpiece.
Our own version, strays a little from tradition though stays true to the wonderful ingredients that make this pie so tempting.
Typically, a Pastilla features a layer of shredded chicken, followed by and layer of almost-scrambled-egg, followed by a layer of cooked and finely chopped almonds and finished, of course, with the icing sugar.
In our own version, we decided to combine the layers of egg, almond and sugar to make another very familiar pie filling.
We reduce the amount of sugar typically used in a frangipane but keep it sweet enough to ensure you get those salty-sweet tones a Pastilla deserves – the result is a crisp-crusted, moist, moreish and altogether eatable pie that will wow your tastebuds, even if a do say so myself.
Give it a go – chicken and frangipane really does work!
THE CHICKEN PASTILLA FILLING
4 Large Chicken Breasts,
1 Large Onion, finely sliced
2 tsp. Ras El Hanout
½ tsp. Ground Turmeric,
Pinch of Saffron,
250ml Chicken Stock
1 Small Bunch of Parsley, approx 5g, roughly chopped
1 Small Bunch of Coriander, approx 5g, roughly chopped
Generous Pinch of Salt & Pepper
100g Unsalted Butter, softened
50g Golden Caster Sugar,
2 Medium Eggs,
140g Ground Almonds,
75g Plain Flour
250g Filo Pastry
50g Butter, melted
24cm Spring Form Cake Tin or Loose Bottom Cake Tin
Toasted Flaked Almonds
THE CHICKEN FILLING
- Place the saffron in a small bowl with a about 1 tbsp of warm water. Leave to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
- Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper and 1 tsp. of Ras el Hanout. Adding a splash of olive oil if necessary to evenly cover the chicken breasts in seasoning.
- Place a large pan over a medium-high heat with a lug of olive oil. Add the chicken breast into the pan and cook for about 1 minute on each side until sealed. Remove from the pan and reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the onions into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the remaining Ras el Hanout and cook for a further minute until fragrant. Return the chicken breasts to the pan and add the chicken stock and the saffron water. Increase the heat to medium-high and cover the pan, leaving the liquid to reduce by two thirds, turning the chicken breasts over halfway through. About 10-12 minutes.
- Using two forks, shred the chicken breast into small bite-sized chunks, ensuring everything is lightly coated in sauce. The chicken should be well coated and moist but not swimming in sauce. Leave to cool.
6 Once cooled, mix through the chopped herbs.
- Place the butter into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk until creamy. Add the sugar into the butter and whisk again until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking thoroughly after each egg. Finally, stir in the ground almonds and flour.
THE CHICKEN PASTILLA
TIP – When working with Filo Pastry, it’s important to work quickly, otherwise the pastry will dry out and crack as you try to manipulate it. Make sure you have all your elements laid out and ready to go before starting to assemble the pie to ensure you work efficiently. We usually lay a damp tea-towel over the pastry in between layers to ensure the sheets remain humid.
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC (fan).
TIP – Depending on the size of your filo sheets, you may need to use 2 sheets per-layer, overlaying them slightly, when constructing the Pastilla – you want the pastry to hang over the sides of the cake tin by about 10cm when you first start layering the pastry. If you find you need to do this – check that you have enough pastry sheets to make the Pastilla. In total you will be creating 5 layers of pastry, so if doubling-up, you will need 10.
- Lightly butter the inside of your cake tin before layering in 3 layers of filo, brushing with melted butter in between each layer. The pastry should hang well-over the edge of the cake tin.
- Add the Frangipane into the tin, smooth out to create an even layer. Cut two sheets of filo to fit inside the tin without overlapping and layer them on top of the frangipane, buttering between each layer. You should be able to get these two layers out of a single sheet of pastry, don’t worry too much about cutting them into perfect circles, a little overlapping is fine.
- Add the chicken mixture into the pan and spread out into an even layer. Cut another two sheets of filo to fit inside the tin without overlapping and layer them on top of the frangipane, buttering between each layer. Finally fold each of the layers that are overlapping the sides of the tin over, buttering in between each layer until they all sit within the tin. These layers can be quite loose and rustic to give the textured top. Brush lightly with the remaining butter.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
- Once cooked transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the outer tin before serving your chicken pastilla with a salad.