LOCATION: Recipes >> Entrée Pies >> PASTIYA (also BESTILA) (The "Pigeon" Pie)
PASTIYA (also BESTILA) (The "Pigeon" Pie)
This is probably Morocco's most famous culinary preparation, world
class, and deservedly so. My Jewish teacher thought that it was a Jewish
innovation possibly brought from Spain at the time of the Inquisition,
although Muslims also have their version of this aromatically seasoned,
slightly sweet pie. The original pie was made with pigeon, but it is
gradually being converted to the more easily available chicken (outside
Morocco), and in the United States the Cornish game hen.
The pastiya is a ceremonial dish served at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and
occasions when the company is to be honored. But why wait for such a
special time when it can be served at buffet parties or for the sheer
pleasure of dining on Morocco's exotic classic.
It should be noted that the Muslim version is served sprinkled with
confectioner's sugar and ground cinnamon.
3 lbs onions, peeled and sliced thin
2 Tbsps corn oil
3 tsps salt, divided
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp, whole saffron, dissolved in
1/2 cup water, hot
5 lbs (about) chicken pieces -- legs, thighs, and breasts, OR
2 (3 lb) chickens, quartered with skin and fat discarded
2/3 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
5 large eggs, beaten WITH
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb almonds, blanched and toasted (see -- NOTE)
1-1/2 Tbsps sugar
1-1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 lb margarine, melted
1 lb Greek fillo sheets, about 12 by 17-ins
1 egg yolk, PLUS
1 tsp egg white, beaten together
In a large pan, place the onions, oil, 2 teaspoons of the salt,
and the pepper. Stir-fry over moderate heat for several minutes.
Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and fry for about 15 minutes
longer to reduce the bulk of the onions.
Pour in the saffron/water mixture. Mix well.
Place the chicken pieces on top of the onions. Cover the pan and
continue to cook for 1/2 hour more, or until the chicken is tender.
No liquid is added since the onions and chicken will provide the
Remove the chicken. Cut the meat off the bones and discard the
bones. Cut the meat into small (about 1/2-inch) pieces. Set aside.
Stir the chopped parsley into the onions. Pour in the eggs and
over very low heat stir the mixture until it is slightly cooked,
about 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a processor, grind or chop the almonds to medium-fine consistency,
leaving some texture. Mix the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon together.
Coat the bottom and sides of a 14 by 10 by 3-inch baking pan with
the melted margarine. (A modern note -- formerly vegetable oil was
Open the package of fillo and spread the sheets out flat. Cover
the sheets with a slightly damp kitchen towel to prevent them from
drying out. Lay down 2 sheets over the pan bottom and coat the
top sheet with the melted margarine, using a pastry brush. The
excess inch or two of fillo around the sides may be trimmed with
a sharp knife or folded in. Lay down 10 sheets in this way, coating
every other sheet.
Spread out the cut up chicken over the pastry and smooth out the
surface from corner to corner. Lay down 8 more sheets of fillo,
brushing every other sheet with the melted margarine. Spread out
the ground almond mixture over the top.
Lay down 6 more fillo sheets and over these, spread out the onion/egg
mixture. Cover with 8 more sheets of fillo, brushing each of the
last 3 sheets with melted margarine. At this point, tuck in the
fillo around the inner sides of the pan so that the top is a smooth
Cut the completed pie into 3-inch squares, 4 strips down and 5
strips across, cutting through to the bottom of the pan. Brush
each square with the beaten egg.
Bake in a preheated, 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour. Remove the
pan and recut through each square to the bottom of the pan.
Serve warm along with Moroccan salads and other dishes. Makes 20
NOTE: TO PREPARE THE ALMONDS: Blanch the almonds in boiling water.
Cool them slightly and remove the skins. Dry the almonds. In a
skillet, heat oil. Add the almonds and fry over low heat for
several minutes, until the nuts reach a toasted, light tan color.
Remove the almonds from the oil and toss them on paper towels to
drain off any excess oil. (A Moroccan friend said that she puts
the blanched almonds on a cookie sheet in a preheated, 350 degree
F. oven and toasts the nuts for about 15 minutes.)
VARIATION: Individual pies are often the most convenient method
of preparation for appetizers and cocktail parties. They are
substantial portions with all the characteristic flavors of the
large pies. The disadvantage of the large pie is that the fragments
of filling do have a tendency to fall out. This is not important
when served on a plate, but is inconvenient when standing up with
a drink in one hand.
20 sheets fillo
1 egg yolk
1 tsp egg white
Prepare all the steps taken for the large pie filling and set aside
as done previously. Mix the chicken, onions, and almonds together,
the complete filling for the individual pies.
Butter 1 sheet of fillo and fold it in half lengthwise. Put 2
heaping tablespoons filling at one end of the fillo sheet and fold
it over twice. Fold over each side toward the center so that the
individual bundle is about 5-inches in width, and continue rolling
until you have reached the end of the sheet. You should have a
pie 2-inches thick and 5-inches in length. Prepare all the pies
this way and place them on a cookie sheet brushed with margarine.
Paint the surface of each pie with the egg mixture.
Bake in a preheated, 350 degree F. oven for about 45 minutes,
somewhat less than the large pie.
Serve warm. Makes 20 individual "pigeon" pies.
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