As an American who lived in Morocco for two years, I garnered an appreciation for Moroccan food! Of course, I enjoyed the bread, desserts, and tagines, but I fell in love with one dish, Moroccan Chicken Pastilla! Moroccan pastilla is a pie-type dish layered with sweet and savory flavors.
I could not pinpoint the ingredients when I first tried this dish because they melted so well together. I learned how to make this dish a year into living in Morocco. I was surprised to learn about the intricacies of making Moroccan pastillas. This delicacy is traditionally served for special occasions and events, and it is not too complicated if you have the patience and time.
You should try this recipe if you want to make something new. You can add this dish to your holiday season menu to spice up your dishes and share something new with your family and friends.
Makes one large casserole dish (12 servings)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil for cooking + 1 tablespoon olive oil to roast the almonds
- 1 lb chicken thighs
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon saffron
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups chopped fresh parsley
- 1 cup chopped fresh coriander
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 8 eggs, scrambled, plus 1 egg beaten for brushing
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 package of filo pastry
*Note: the filling can be prepared a couple of days in advance if needed.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil and add the chicken, onions, turmeric, ginger, saffron, salt, and pepper. Let the chicken and onion mixture cook over medium heat for 15 minutes stirring/turning over chicken occasionally. Add the parsley and coriander along with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Leave to simmer gently until the chicken is cooked and golden brown, about 40 min.
Meanwhile, prepare the almonds. Place the blanched almonds in a baking tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake in the oven until golden, about 10-12 minutes. Let the almonds cool before handling. Next, transfer them in a food processor or a nut grinder. Add 1 ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and 3 tablespoons of icing sugar to the roasted almonds and process until coarsely ground. Set aside until ready to assemble.
When the chicken is cooked, take the pot off the heat and remove the chicken pieces from the pan (leaving the cooked herbs and onions inside the pan). Place chicken in an area to let cool. Once the chicken has cooled down to room temperature, pull off the chicken meat and discard the skin and the bones. Chop or shred the chicken into smaller chunks/pieces. Place in the fridge until ready to assemble.
Add 2 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the onions and reduce the sauce to caramelize the onions. Leave over medium-low heat with no lid on top until all the liquid evaporates and the onions are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the onions from sticking to the pan. No liquid should be left in the pan, except oil. Add salt if necessary.
In a small frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Crack the eggs and scramble them in the butter. Set aside to cool until ready to assemble. Make sure that the scrambled eggs are not undercooked and runny so that the liquid does not affect the pastry.
Assembling the Pastilla
Unroll the filo pastry sheets, keeping them under a damp towel to prevent them from drying out. Heat the remaining butter until melted. Lightly brush a large rectangular shallow dish with melted butter.
Place a filo sheet in your shallow dish, brush it with melted butter and top with another filo sheet that you brush with butter as well. Make sure the pastry sheets touch the outer edges of the dish and overlap.
On top of your filo dough, sprinkle chicken chunks and eggs, drop and spread some of the caramelized onions, and finally, sprinkle on the coarse almonds mixture. Fold the overlapping filo pastry in over the top to cover your first layer. Repeat two times, layering all of the ingredients. Once finished, brush the top lightly with melted butter. Take a cookie sheet and line it with foil. Next, carefully flip the Pastilla on to the foil-lined cookie sheet and remove it from the dish. Invert the foil so that it acts as handles and place the pastilla back in the shallow dish (check out how I flipped it in the video!).
Beat the remaining egg. Brush the Pastilla with the beaten egg and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 30 min. mix the remaining cinnamon and sugar. Once cooked, sprinkle pastilla with as much cinnamon and sugar as you want. Serve hot and enjoy!
*Check out mymoroccanfood.com for the original recipe